As we head into Women’s History Month, the recent changes to the American Cancer Society’s guidelines regarding mammograms and annual breast exams still have some women concerned about a potential failure to diagnose breast cancer. During breast cancer awareness month last October, the ACS recommended the starting age for women to have an annual mammogram be moved from 40 to 45, with bi-annual testing beginning at 55. They also recommended eliminating the physical breast exam done in a doctor’s office as part of the annual exam.
The ACS feels the changes will help reduce the number of false positive breast cancer results, especially for women in their early 40s, where the majority of false positives occur. Those who oppose the new guidelines explain that the updated digital technology used in mammograms is less likely to give a false positive reading (compared to the previous way of using film) since doctors have a clearer and more detailed picture.
Other critics in the medical field feel that pushing the age for annual mammograms will result in breast cancer being detected at a stage where a more invasive treatment is necessary. It is also uncertain how insurance companies will respond to the new recommendations when it comes to covering this preventative service.
The ACS maintains women should have the option to get tested at age 40 and women with a higher risk of developing breast cancer (e.g.: family history) should speak with their doctor about when and how to be tested. Though there continues to be questions and concerns on this issue, the one constant is that early detection is key. If you or someone you love feel that a breast cancer diagnosis could have been discovered sooner, speak to a qualified attorney at Finz & Finz, P.C., to find out your rights as a patient. Guidelines are just that—and should not deter doctors from doing everything to keep their patients in good health.