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Most Women in Their 40s Shouldn’t Get Mammograms

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From the Los Angeles Times

A controversial new government report recommends that unless a woman has specific risks for breast cancer, she should wait to get regular mammograms until age 50. Even then, women should be screened only every other year, rather than annually as currently recommended. And physicians shouldn’t be teaching women of any age how to examine their breasts for signs of cancer because there’s no evidence that it does any good.

The new U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidelines published yesterday created a furor in the medical community and are bound to leave many women confused since it changes what for many had become conventional wisdom. In fact, it was just seven years ago that the same group recommended that women in their 40s have mammograms every year or two. But in this latest review, the independent panel of experts says younger women have a higher risk of being harmed by mammograms—including by anxiety stemming from false positives—for a relatively small benefit.

So, women should talk to their doctors about the risks and benefits to decide whether to undergo screening. Oncologists were pretty uniform in condemning the new guidelines and other groups, including the American Cancer Society, insisted they won’t be changing their recommendations. Many are concerned that the new recommendations will change reimbursement guidelines from insurance companies, but that seems unlikely in the near future. As the Los Angeles Times points out, this latest recommendation is similar to what has been said lately about screening for prostate cancer, which many contend causes more harm than good.

Author: barenose

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