The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recently changed the guidelines surrounding mammography screenings, and the new national guidelines have caused confusion for many women.
Early in January 2016, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force scaled back the recommended mammography screenings for both younger and older women.
The agency now recommends that only women ages 50 to 74 need to get screened and that they only need to go get screened once every two years.
The agency said that the benefits of a mammogram would be small for women ages 40 to 49 and the benefit for women over the age of 74 would be insufficient, therefore advising those age groups not to get screened.
Last October, the American Cancer Society also back-pedaled from its own long-term mammography guidelines by stating that women can now wait longer, specifically until 45 and older, to start getting annual mammograms. Also, when women turn 55, they can begin to get mammography screenings less frequently.
Up until the last couple months, the American Cancer Society had less detailed mammogram guidelines for women, which said that women 40 and older should get screened annually.
In addition, they recommended that women give themselves regular self-exams to check for lumps. But now the new conflicting guidelines have caused concerned for women, many of whom are now left wondering what’s best for them.
Terri Jurkiewicz, associate professor of radiology at Weber State University, said she personally disagrees with the recent guideline changes.
Jurkiewicz said that the older a person gets, the more at risk they are for breast cancer.
Jurkiewicz believes that the guidelines that encourage women to not get screened after 74 sends the wrong message.
“It’s sending the message that once you get passed a certain age, you don’t matter anymore,” Jurkiewicz said.
Although younger women are usually at a lower risk of developing breast cancer, they too are affected by the change in the recommended guidelines.
According to the Susan B. Komen Cancer Foundation, breast cancers in younger women are more likely to be “fast-growing, higher grade and hormone receptor-negative, which makes them more aggressive.”
Chris Dallin, spokesperson for the McKay Dee Hospital, said that if women have any questions or concerns with their personal health, they should always consult with their primary care provider.
“It’s important that each individual understands that they know their own health better than anyone else,” Dallin said.
Utah ranks as seventh lowest in nation when it comes to women getting mammography screenings, and these guidelines may lower those numbers even more. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, making identification through mammograms important.
Mammography screenings are considered preventive care and normally don’t require out-of-pocket expenses on most health insurance plans. For those without insurance, many local health departments offer free or low-cost screenings. For more information, visit the Utah Cancer Control Program’s website.
“If you worked in it, you would know that mammograms literally save lives,” Jurkiewicz said. “Don’t stop having your mammogram. I don’t care where you go, as long as you keep going and getting one.”