For months now, there’s been debate in the medical community about mammograms. When to start getting them? How often? How effective are they even?
Dr. Phil Evans runs the Center for Breast Care at UT Southwestern. He also used to be the president of the American Cancer Society.
“The guidelines state that every woman who’s of average risk for developing breast cancer should begin screening at age 45 and have annual screenings between the ages of 45 and 54,” Evans says.
Previously, the American Cancer Society recommended screenings for women over 40.
So, why the change?
Evans says, the ACS examined when that cancer becomes more prevalent in the population. It also looked at the down sides of mammograms.
“This is the first time the American Cancer Society has taken a hard look at the so-called harms of screening,” Evans says.
Sometimes, mammograms can create what’s called “false positives.”
“A false positive is when cancer is suspected and the biopsy - or procedure - was done and turns out to be not cancer,” he says.
On average, 10 percent of women who get mammograms, will asked to come back for more testing. And then, of that? Five percent will have cancer.
So -- yes -- that’s a lot of anxiety.
On the other hand, Dr. Evans points to an explanation he hears a lot: “Most women that I see would rather be safe than sorry. And that’s the one that we see the most. My mindset is to find cancers early, because early detection saves lives.”
There were several other changes in the what the Cancer Society suggests: Women over 55 should now be screened every other year, and it stopped recommending clinical breast exams during screenings.