How often should women get a mammogram? The American Cancer Society says every year if you're between the ages of 45 and 54, with no history of breast cancer. However, the American College of Physicians (ACP) disagrees.
In a new statement, it says most women should get a mammogram every other year, starting at age 50.
“It's important to remember that this ACP guidelines statement does not apply to women who are at higher risk, who have had a prior abnormal study, who may have had a personal history of breast cancer, who may have a genetic mutation that places them at higher risk for breast cancer,” explains Dr. Ana Maria Lopez, president of the American College of Physicians.
The ACP says evidence shows getting a mammogram every year can lead to anxiety over false positives and tests women don't need.
But Dr. Lora Barke, medical director for Invision Sally Jobe breast centers, says unnecessary treatment isn't a concern.
“There are women that need to come back, and it's only approximately 10 percent of women that get called back from a screening mammogram and much fewer that may have to undergo a biopsy,” explains Dr. Barke.
The ACP says there's no significant difference in the breast cancer rate between annual and biannual mammograms. But Dr. Barke says screening should start even younger. She recommends yearly mammograms, starting at age 40.
“Doing a mammogram every year results in mortality reduction of about 40 percent,” she says. “Whereas doing it every other year, starting later in life, reduces that mortality reduction to 23 percent.”
Dr. Barke says the guidelines are just that: guidelines. She hopes they encourage women to be more aware.
“I'm hopeful that just by bringing this to the table that people will recognize that it's time for them to take action,” Dr. Barke says.
The ACP says women at average risk should start talking with their doctor about breast cancer screening options at age 40.