Our Friends Answer: What Do You Think of the New Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines?

By on November 12th, 2015 Categories: Research News

The American Cancer Society (ACS) made news on October 20 when they released updated breast cancer screening guidelines. The new guidelines recommend that women at average risk start regular annual screening with mammography at age 45 and move to screening every 2 years at age 55. The guidelines also say that women ages 40 to 44 should have the option to begin screening early, and that women 55 and older should have the opportunity to continue screening every year if they choose.

It’s important to know that these new guidelines are for women at AVERAGE risk of breast cancer. According to the ACS, “average risk” means women who are not at higher risk due to known or suspected risk factors that would lead to recommending earlier initiation of screening, shorter intervals, or use of different imaging technology.

It’s also important to know that for many women, risk is underestimated. “The assumption that we can accurately identify who is just at average risk of breast cancer is a dangerous default. Risk is complex, poorly understood, and it’s often inconsistently assessed over time,” says Marisa Weiss, M.D., Breastcancer.org president and founder.

Breastcancer.org stands by its recommendation that ALL women have mammograms annually starting at age 40. We also believe that monthly breast self-exam and annual physical exams by a doctor are essential parts of an overall breast cancer screening strategy.

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Our Facebook friends weighed in with their experiences and concerns about the new ACS guidelines:

Had I not been able to feel my tumor, it would have likely killed me by the time I would likely have my first mammogram at 40 or 45. I’m 36 and discovered my tumor last month. I have no family history and am BRCA negative. What are they proposing to screen younger women????

I was also 36 when diagnosed, with no family history and BRCA negative. I probably wouldn’t have made it to 40 or even 45 either. Very sad for those that this will affect negatively.

I diagnosed at 38 with stage 3. No family history at all. So had I not felt it, it would have killed me by 45. This just infuriates me because women younger and younger are being diagnosed.

This is terrible. One in eight women is an incredibly high statistic. Even worse, this will give women who don’t like mammograms “reasoning” latitude to skip them. As a mammographer I’ve seen twenty-somethings to octogenarians receive breast cancer diagnoses. Breast cancer isn’t limited to older ladies. I can’t understand a system that would limit yearly screening tools to keep us healthy, find and treat disease early, all while keeping medical costs lower to an individual and an insurance company. Do some reading. Talk to your doctor. Follow the American College of Radiology’s guidelines on breast imaging. Be your own advocate. Feel your boobs/be familiar with them. Get your mammograms.

I was diagnosed with AGGRESSIVE [triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC)] at age 41 via a mammogram, diagnostic mammogram, sonogram and biopsy (it took all of those tests to confirm diagnosis). I did not feel a lump nor could any doctor feel the lump. It was only detected on my yearly mammogram. Had I waited until 45 to get my initial screening…I would most likely have been diagnosed with stage IV TNBC.

Now that the insurance companies are in control of our medical care (not our doctors), notice that ALL of a sudden we need LESS screening tests!!!! Apparently, the American Cancer Society must have gotten a HUGE donation from the insurance companies to support this!

I had no detectable lumps at age 35 but my employer offered mammograms starting at age 35 so I did it. I was already stage 2A Lobular Carcinoma. I am BRCA negative. If I waited even until 40, I would be dead. I’m 39 now. Gawd.

I agree with ACS. Study after study has shown that mammograms do NOT save lives. They find slow growing tumors and tumors that would likely never metastasize, not the most aggressive ones. I was diagnosed Stage IV from the start 6.5 months after my mammogram. I was 41. I’d had mammograms every 6-12 months since my mid 30’s. Mammograms did nothing for me.

Reply:

I had a slow growing tumor that looked like just dense breast tissue and in ONE year it turned from slow to fast. Blew up into a palpable lump within six months of a breast exam. Stage IIB, a large estrogen positive tumor and I had to have chemo. I STILL have DISABLING side effects from that a YEAR later. I had skipped one mammogram after 15 years of clean ones with one year (2009) “well maybe you should come in for a sonogram IF you feel like it.” No family history no risk factors and I didn’t feel like it! THAT was cancer. You never know with cancer and early detection is KEY.

Read all the recommendations, the last one is the tale-teller. Why would ACS pull a clinical breast exam from all women of average risk, if this isn’t about money? What harm is an exam by a physician? Other than the bill sent to the insurance company. Food for thought.

I saw the report and am confused now. Can anyone explain why the recommendations are less often after 55? Will our health insurance carriers use that data to deny coverage? I’m going to answer myself, YES mine will TRY!

Absolutely OUTRAGEOUS!!! Totally political!

The only ones at risk if women are screened early are the insurance companies! I would gladly trade the stress of a false positive for the stress of a late diagnosis.

AMEN!! Coming from a one year survivor that I would not have found my Stage 1 moderate aggressive tumor without my annual mammogram that was not 3D, and who now requires a 3D mammogram (not covered by insurance) every year in addition to a breast MRI in 2016. Isn’t the idea that early detection saves lives important to the ACS? Booo on them. By the way I was told not research my breast cancer on the internet, but I DID and found that Breastcancer.org was the most exact, spot on in everything I went through… exactly the correct information, step by step what I went thru. I got incredible power from being in the know!! THANKS SO MUCH.

By the time it is advancing, it is a way different creature than it is when found early. By age 46, my cancer had advanced to IIIC, invaded nodes, and was discovered by the fact it made a lump in my breast. My doctor had said to start screenings earlier, based on family history, and I had mistakenly thought that was too early. I took an informal poll of other breast cancer patients, a small sampling, and most of them were diagnosed in their 40s. I say, do what you and your doctor think is right for you. Get a baseline done and go from there. But the 40s are no decade to fool around with.

I think it should be based on family and patient history and risks, but rather than any organization telling people what to do, it should be the doctor and patient who decide.

The American Cancer Society has received its last donation from me….They have just opened the door for Congress and the Insurance Industry to sign off on no coverage until the guideline….SHAME SHAME SHAME ON YOU ACS.

As an adopted child with no medical history at all, my mom brilliantly had me do a mammogram at 35 years of age to make sure I had a baseline for life.
Insurance refused to pay and I had to pay out of pocket.
I am lucky that my mom and dad could afford to pay out of pocket and had the power of knowledge.
Makes me sad that another woman may not be as lucky.

It happens, that’s why it’s so important to know your body and pursue every avenue. From one year to the next I had 3 tumors pop up. One I could feel and 2 were a surprise. I just don’t believe the
ACS is helping women by dictating when women should be tested. Every woman should have a baseline if they want. Insurance agencies will jump at an opportunity to not pay based on age.

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Join the conversation — what are your thoughts on the new ACS guidelines?

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Caroline Durham, Content Manager – Caroline brings an eye for detail to managing and copyediting our 7,000 pages of website content. She works closely with all departments to ensure that the website is up-to-date and easy-to-use. When not sitting in front of the computer, Caroline is probably studying plants or climbing rocks.

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