The debate over when women should get mammograms continues.
In a study that came out in September, 2013, Harvard University researchers say mammograms before age 50 could dramatically cut deaths from breast cancer and that many women who were diagnosed with breast cancer before age 50, and who ultimately succumbed to the disease, had never been screened.
Not all organizations agree when a woman should start screening. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force mammogram guidelines recommend women begin screening at age 50 and repeat the test every two years; whereas the American Cancer Society and other organizations recommend beginning screening at 40 and continuing annually.
In a press release regarding a study conducted by author Dr. Blake Cady, professor of surgery (emeritus) of Harvard Medical School says, “The biological nature of breast cancer in young women is more aggressive, while breast cancer in older women tends to be more indolent. This suggests that less frequent screening in older women, but more frequent screening in younger women, may be more biologically-based, practical, and cost effective.”
Although the screenings have reduced early detection cancer rates, some women experience false positive results leading to unnecessary treatment, expenses, and stress.
While breast cancer in women under 40 may be on the rise, research does not support the effectiveness of mammograms to detect breast cancer in women in their 20s and 30s.
Most health organizations, including the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute, do say that the benefits outweigh the risks and recommend women get mammograms on a regular basis.
Breast surgeon, Dr. Jay Harness, MD, explains the debate over mammograms and if women under the age of 40 should be getting them.