The American Cancer Society (ACS) released its new breast cancer screening guidelines, raising the recommended age for beginning annual screening from 40 to 45, and endorsing biennial screenings beginning at age 55. In addition, the new guidelines suggest physicians should forgo clinical breast exams for women of any age.
I have an admittedly biased opinion about these recommendations. My breast cancer was found by a routine annual screening mammogram. I had a very low risk of developing breast cancer. I am thankful that the mammogram uncovered the tumor early, allowing me the best chance for a cure. I was upset when the US Preventative Task Force recommended biennial screening mammography for women starting at the age of 50. And I was disappointed when the ACS recently released their updated recommendations.
Mammograms and breast exams are not the perfect screening tests. They can diagnose tumors that are not cancer, and they can miss tumors that are cancer. But they are all we have for screening now. Until a better screening test is determined, the best we can do is to take these recommendations as mere guidelines. Each individual woman should discuss with her personal physician her risk factors for breast cancer and try to determine when it would be best for her to start screening mammograms.