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Changes in mammogram guidelines cause confusion and controversy - KOAM TV 7

Changes in mammogram guidelines cause confusion and controversy

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JOPLIN, MISSOURI -

Years ago, the American Cancer Society stated that delaying mammograms would lead to the death of more women. But now, it has changed its tune.

For years women have been told how important early detection is.

“Gosh, every time you go to the doctor's office there’s something about doing a self-breast exam and getting a mammogram starting at age 40," says breast cancer survivor Beth Peacock.

Following those guidelines saved her life.

But on Tuesday, the American Cancer Society released new guidelines, saying that women should have their first mammogram when they're 45, causing confusion and controversy.

“Breast cancer is 1 in 8 women, I think 45 is a little late,” says Peacock.

“There’s a lot of controversy as to whether mammograms extend life in patients who get them. But we do know that mammograms pick up earlier breast cancers and earlier breast cancers can be treated and can be cured. If we're catching breast cancers earlier, that can provide women with a lot of benefit down the line too. So that's why it’s really hard to put in perspective, well what should we do with these new guidelines," says Dr. Samir Dilia, a medical oncologist at Mercy Hospital.

A question that doctors nationwide are now asking.

“For me, it still makes it hard until we see more data. I still think we are going to recommend in most cases that women get a mammogram at age 40," continues Dr. Dilia.

The changes were made to reduce medical costs and the risk of getting a false positive.

Younger women have denser breast tissue which can appear as a mass and lead to further invasive testing.

“There’s also going to be a psychological risk to the patient knowing that maybe there's something there,” says Dr. Dilia.

The new mammogram recommendations are for women at an "average risk of breast cancer." The society also said that doctors no longer need to perform breast exams during a checkup, since they have not been shown to save lives.

“It didn't run in my family and so the self-breast exam is what saved my life," says Peacock.   

Although younger women are at a lower-risk for breast cancer, some doctors are concerned when it comes to changes in insurance coverage due to these new guidelines.

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