NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
The American Cancer Society has issued new breast cancer screening guidelines, advising women to hold off on annual mammograms until they reach age 45.
The controversial medical advice, announced Tuesday morning, sparked immediate debate between early detection advocates and doctors who believe that the science is imperfect and less useful in younger women.
Previous cancer society guidelines called for annual mammograms starting at age 40.
The new, highly-influential guidelines also call for women 55 and older to transition to screening every other year . Doctors behind the guidelines said routine clinical breast exams are no longer needed.
“It is important to remember and emphasize with average-risk women older than 40 years that there is no single right answer to the question ‘Should I have a mammogram?’” wrote Nancy Keating, a professor of health care policy and medicine at Harvard who co-authored a Journal of American Medical Association editorial about the guidelines,
“Instead, women should be supported in estimating and understanding their risk of developing breast cancer and articulating their values and preferences so that clinicians can help them make informed decisions.”
The guidelines are suggested for women with “with an average risk of breast cancer.” They replace guidelines that had been in place since 2003.
Kristin Byrne, chief of breast imaging at Lenox Hill Hospital, said the new direction is the wrong direction.
While patients will still have the option to get early and more frequent mammograms, Byrne said she is concerned that insurance companies will not pay for anything above the new guidelines.
“They’re probably not going to pay for it if you don’t have any additional factors,” Byrne said. “If you want it, they’re probably going to say. ‘Just pay for it yourself.’”
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, according to the ACS. In the United States, it is estimated that approximately 230,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015.
Breast cancer continues to rank second, after lung cancer, as a cause of cancer death in women in the U.S., and is a leading cause of premature mortality for women.
“Early detection saves lives,” Byrne said.
“Most of these doctors who make guidelines don’t treat cancer patients. A lot of them are looking at numbers.”