The Mammogram Debate – What should you choose?


It is surprising that with such concerns over Breast Cancer that we would even consider debating an evaluation and diagnostic procedure that could save lives. But. . . that’s exactly what is happening in the medical community. The mammogram debate is just starting to heat up.

Your knowledge about mammograms is essential in making a valid decision!

Of course with anything, there are risks but, do the risks outweigh the findings?

Most people know that Mammograms are essential – but the recent debate has been about the age of “routine” mammogram screening.!!!

The following blog is a look at both sides of the argument and is not designed to choose for you.

Hopefully, at the end, that will be the easy part. If not, and you have more questions, feel free to email our staff or post a comment.

Therefore, Age and relevance continue to dominate the mammogram debate.  Mammograms are a key way to diagnose Breast Cancer. The essential Facts About Breast Cancer always include mammograms. Mammograms have been an important theme and have been promoted during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

But for many women both young and old – the question regarding the importance of Mammograms continues to be dusted off.

Mammograms are specialized X-rays that look at Breast Tissue.  Can be done as a routine screening or following a breast exam finding a concerning nodule.

The American Cancer Society has long reported a need for routine mammograms to start at age 40.  Then mammograms continue every 1 or 2 years following.

Recently, a federally-appointed advisory panel decided to set its own standard.  Their recommendations point to the need for mammograms only being done under the age of 50.  This is a huge difference when compared to the previous recommendation age of 40. This just adds to the mammogram debate.

The panel also reported a lack of importance of Self Breast Exams.

The reaction to the guidelines has been primarily met with anger.  Although several medical providers and patients understand the change in guidelines – the mainstream of both remains quite upset.

Concern regarding federal coverage of these procedures when done earlier than age 50 has been brought into question.  It is also unknown if any private insurances will change its policy to match the guidelines set forth.

Both sides of the argument appear to have supporters.

Effectiveness of Mammograms

It is thought that for women under the age of 40 it takes 1900 mammograms to save 1 life

The improvement increases after age 50 to 1300 mammograms to save 1 life.

Others argue that the risk of false-positive or non-breast cancers that are diagnosed as breast cancers are a huge concern.

Others report that mammograms are one step in breast cancer identification.  Breast biopsies help confirm or enhance the diagnosis.

Some women report that mammograms have saved their lives and more importantly their confidence.

Breast cancer is the number one concern of women and mammograms can help alleviate finding a breast mass on an exam.

Robert Smith, director of cancer screening for the American Cancer Society, says his organization also is sticking with the current guidelines “because we not only looked at the evidence that the task force looked at, but we also looked at newer, modern data.”


Recent Update

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in a given statement, reported that the new guidelines had “caused a great deal of confusion and worry among women and their families across this country,” and she stressed that they were issued by “an outside independent panel of doctors and scientists who . . . do not set federal policy and . . . don’t determine what services are covered by the federal government.”

This statement appears to challenge the previous statement by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

Aside from the American Cancer Society, others such as the American College of Radiology and some members of Congress have questioned the new guidelines involved in the mammogram debate.

Sebelius added: “My message to women is simple. Mammograms have always been an important life-saving tool in the fight against breast cancer and they still are today. Keep doing what you have been doing for years — talk to your doctor about your individual history, ask questions, and make the decision that is right for you.”

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