Are the New Guidelines for Mammography Acceptable?

Mammography is an advanced and modern medical imaging technique used to screen for breast cancer. It uses low-dose X-rays to observe the interior of the breasts. The screening of mammography is known as a mammogram.

It is indeed an essential screening mechanism to detect early cancer and help women to cure the problem. This screening tool is life-saving, by diagnosing breast cancer at a young age when the patient has ample time to prevent its development.

New Guidelines

However, according to recent news, the American Cancer Society’s breast cancer examination guidelines have undergone certain changes. The new recommendations state that women can wait to undergo mammography until the age of 45 instead of 40. The recent amendment recommends that women start receiving annual mammograms at the age of 45. Before this change, the guidelines for this screening mechanism had undergone several other changes as well.

Drawbacks

However, in response to these changed recommendations, the American College of Radiology and the Society of Breast Imaging still strongly advocate the idea of going in for mammography at the age of 40. However, the snag with this recommendation is that breast cancer has been increasingly observed in young women, starting at the age of 25. Hence, those women who develop breast cancer will reach an advanced level in their 40s by the time they go in for mammography. Hence, the recent recommendations apparently deter the early detection, prevention, and diagnosis of breast cancer in young women.

If mammography were done at an earlier age, it could reduce death, improve life expectancy, and enhance life expectancy. Early detection of breast cancer also reduces the need for extensive surgery, aggressive chemotherapy, and lesser mastectomies.

Controversies

The new guidelines for mammography have attracted a lot of debate and news. There has been a lot of backlash from organizations, societies, and individuals, leading to controversies.

Under the new recommendations, the American Cancer Society propagates that women between the ages of 45 to 54 can undergo annual mammography. After the age 55, the screening can be every other year.

The new guidelines have stated that women between the ages of 40 to 44, instead of going for mammography, should consult with their doctor regarding the possibility and symptoms of breast cancer.

Reason for the Change

These guidelines were developed keeping in mind that women nearing menopause are at a greater risk of breast cancer. The people who were behind this fresh set of guidelines suggested that women within the age group of 45 to 49 and those within the 50 to 54 age group have similar threats of breast cancer and similar chances of dying from cancer. Hence, the officials decided to put forth these changed guidelines.

Insurance Companies Reaping Benefits

However, this has greatly benefitted the insurance companies. For instance, if a woman suffering from breast cancer has a life expectancy of 70 years and if the detection and diagnosis of breast cancer are done earlier or at the age of 40 (as they had been done previously), the insurance companies would have to pay for the treatment for 30 years or more. On the other hand, if the mammogram is done between the ages of 45–54, clearly the insurance companies would only have to pay for, at the most, 15 years. Hence, owing to these recommendations, insurance companies are trying to save money at the cost of lives of young women, which is a very depressing fact.

 


Since 2001, Dr. Alexander G. Salerno has led Salerno Medical Associates in East Orange, New Jersey. Dr. Alexander Salerno focuses largely on urban communities and on delivering patient education about both medical and behavioral health issues.