Recently, there has been a discussion within the health community whether how constantly and at what age women should get mammograms. A new survey shows that many doctors agree that the best way of detecting cancer is to get regular mammograms beginning at 40 years old and make those screenings routinary in both older and younger women.

Before this survey was published, there was a divided opinion about the regularity of the mammograms in which health organizations and doctors didn’t agree. However, the latest information brought by the Breast Cancer Social Networks national survey shows that many physicians recommend regular screenings for women between 40 and 44 years old.

Mammogram, Breast Cancer
Most physicians agree mammograms should start at the age of 40. Image credit: Getty Images.

In the past, many organizations presented different guidelines indicating when was the best time for women to start having mammograms and also for those to become regular. For example, The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists strongly recommends women to undergo mammograms at the age of 40.

On the other hand, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends biennial screenings for women since they become 50-year-olds. Both the American College of Radiology and the Society of Breast Imaging recommend annual mammograms for women 40 years or older.

The American Cancer Society recently updated all of its guidelines on this matter, and now recommends that women with an average risk of developing breast cancer should consider starting mammograms at their 40’s, continuing with regular screenings when they are 45.

“All guidelines agree that discussions about mammography should begin at age 40. There is universal agreement on this age. Where the difference comes is the age at which screening should be recommended without the need for an informed decision,” said Dr. Richard Wender, chief cancer control officer of the American Cancer Society.

Results of the survey: there is agreement but is not unanimous

The study was conducted by the Breast Cancer Social Networks and published this Monday in the JAMA Internal Medicine. It gathered 871 physicians and gynecologists from across the country as they were randomly chosen from the American Medical Association’s physician master file.

The results of the paper showed that 88 percent of doctors strongly recommend regular screenings in women between 45 and 49 years old, while 81 percent of them also recommend screening for women between 40 and 44. A lower percentage of interviewed doctors responded that women should start mammograms at +75 years.

Mammogram, Breast Cancer
A comparison between a 3D mammogram (right) and a 2D mammogram (left). Image credit: Torrance Memorial Medical Center.

“Our results serve as a benchmark for breast cancer screening recommendations as guidelines continue to evolve. Our results serve as a benchmark for breast cancer screening recommendations as guidelines continue to evolve. The recommendations varied depending on physician specialty; gynecologists were the most likely to recommend screening,” said main author Dr. Archana Radhakrishnan, a researcher at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore.

63 percent of the surveyed physicians recommended screenings for women between 40 and 44; 67 percent for females 45 to 49 and 52 percent for females +75. Dr. Wender said in an interview with CNN that he trusted the results of the survey given the fact that the response rate for it was considerably high and that all the needed specialties were covered by the Breast Cancer Social Networks at the moment of the analysis.

Experts admit that each guideline from each health organization can vary over time thanks to new scientific and medical discoveries in several areas. However, this becomes a good thing, since more knowledge regarding ways to prevent diseases actually improves its fighting techniques.

According to Dr. Wender, indeed there is not a perfect answer when it comes to mammogram timing because every organization and individual doctor bring distinct values into the recommendation. He also explains that the risk of developing breast cancer often arises when a woman is older, and for that reason, it becomes so difficult to determine the exact preferred age to start with regular mammogram screenings.

Why are mammogram screenings so controversial?

Several organizations have stated that mammograms at the ages of 40 and 44 are not recommended since it could produce more downsides than benefits to the patient. In fact, both the American Cancer Society and the U.S. Preventive Services Task issued a complementary paper to the national survey that was also published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal this Monday.

There is a body of potential downsides that could be produced by early screenings in women. The most common ones are overdiagnosis, which means that a cancer that is not so dangerous for the patient is found, and false-positive results could translate into anxiety and big money spending for the patient. Doctors Deborah Grady and Rita Redberg, both professors at the University of California, San Francisco were the authors of the paper.

One out of every 10 women in the United Stated will develop breast cancer any time of their lives, according to recent data from the National Cancer Institute. Hence the experts’ strong debate regarding when is the best moment for women to star performing screenings. Image Credit: The Daily Mail.

Source: Jamma Network