Instead of waiting until age 50, women should begin obtaining every-other-year mammograms at age 40, suggests a draft recommendation from a federal task panel.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has long recommended that women receive X-ray exams every two years from age 50 to 74, with a more robust recommendation starting at age 40.
If the draft plan is adopted, Tuesday’s revision will signal a change in the influential panel’s policies, albeit it is unlikely to clear up any ambiguity. Other health bodies have different opinions on whether and how frequently to screen.
Dr. Carol Mangione, a former task force chair, said, “This new recommendation will help save lives and prevent more women from dying from breast cancer.”
The task group acknowledged that mammograms at age 40 are an especially critical step because Black women have a 40% higher risk of dying from breast cancer than White women, but it also suggested more research to understand better and address the gap.
The task group also urged for more research to see whether other testing methods would be beneficial because roughly half of all women have thick breasts, which may make mammograms less effective.
The proposed suggestion covers women at ordinary risk of breast cancer, but those with very high risk due to certain hereditary or other factors are not. The task team will decide whether to finalize it after receiving public comments through June 5th.
Even though cancer mortality has declined for some time, lung cancer still claims the lives of more American women than breast cancer.
Aiming to strike a compromise between finding breast cancer early and avoiding too many false alarms when the X-rays spot non-cancerous blips, health organizations have long had various screening guidelines.
The American Cancer Society recommends mammograms for women between the ages of 45 and 54 every year, but they also give them the option of starting at 40 and switching to every other year at 55.
The American College of Radiology urges young women to get examined for risk factors that warrant even earlier screening before recommending annual mammograms starting at age 40 for women at average risk of breast cancer.