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American Cancer Society Changes Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines

New guidelines from the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommend later, less frequent mammograms for most women. What does this mean for you?

On Oct. 20, the ACS released new guidelines for breast cancer screening for women with an average risk of developing the disease. They recommend:

  • Women 40 to 44 be given the option of receiving annual mammograms based on individual risk.
  • Women 45 to 54 receive annual mammograms.
  • Women 55 and older receive mammograms every two years or more frequently based on unique medical needs.

Screenings should continue, according to the ACS, as long as women are healthy and expect to live another 10 years.

While these new recommendations still champion early detection and the use of mammography, they mirror a shift in recent research that suggests women who are younger than 45 benefit little from annual mammograms. Early screening is more likely to be associated with unnecessary procedures, such as invasive biopsies, in healthy women.

Clinical Breast Exams, Too

The same new guidelines no longer recommend annual clinical breast exams. According to the ACS report:

“Evidence does not support routine clinical breast examination as a screening method for women at average risk.”

Women continue to be encouraged to examine their breasts regularly and speak with a medical professional if they notice lumpiness, nipple tenderness or changes in skin texture or other areas.

When the Guide Doesn’t Apply

Not all women fall into the average breast cancer risk category. For them, mammograms may be recommended earlier in life and more frequently than outlined in the general ACS recommendations.

Women in this category include those with:

  • A personal history of breast or ovarian cancer
  • Extreme breast density
  • First-degree relatives who have or have had breast cancer
  • BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutation
  • First-degree relatives with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation.
  • Prior history of radiation therapy to the chest
  • Personal or close family history of Cowden syndrome, Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome or Li-Fraumeni syndrome

These women may benefit from mammography and breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The ACS only recommends MRI screening for women whose risk of developing breast cancer is 15 percent or more than average.

Deciding when to begin screening for breast cancer and how often to do so are personal choices that need to be made with the direction of your health provider.

If you have questions about breast cancer screening and are looking for a primary care provider, visit TexasHealth.org/FindaPhysician.

Physicians on the medical staff practice independently and are not employees or agents of the hospital or Texas Health Resources.

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