If you've been anywhere near the Internet the past 24 hours, you've probably noticed that everyone is talking about — and has an opinion about — the American Cancer Society's (ACS) updated breast cancer screening guidelines. But what are those guidelines in the first place? Well, the gist of the ACS guidelines is that having mammograms later and less often is better, but here are the details:
- Most women don't need to start mammograms until they reach age 45. (Until now, the ACS recommended age to start was 40.)
- But women should be allowed to start screening as early as age 40 if they want to.
- Women between 45 and 54 years old should be screened annually.
- Women 55 years and older should be screened every other year, but with the option to continue getting screened annually if they want to.
- Women should continue regular mammograms so long as they are healthy.
- Breast exams (both by a doctor as well as self-exams) are no longer recommended.
Keep in mind these guidelines do not apply to women who are at high risk of developing breast cancer (usually because of family history or a breast condition). Women at high risk should begin mammograms earlier and more often.
So now the top three breast cancer orgs have totally different recommendations for when women should start getting mammograms: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says age 40, the ACS says age 45, and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says age 50.
Confused? Don't Worry
Ultimately, all of this comes down to speaking with your doctor and deciding what's best for you. There are pros and cons to mammograms, and you know your body best. If you notice something unusual in the look and/or feel of your breasts, visit your doctor. Proactivity is healthy.