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New mammogram guidelines are causing concern

by Maggie O'Mara

Bio | Email | Follow: @maggiektvb7


Posted on November 17, 2009 at 8:43 AM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 29 at 9:20 PM

New Mammogram Guidelines      

Getting a mammogram is something most women know we should start doing at the age of 40. It's been drilled into all of us for years. But yesterday, new guidelines were announced by a government task force that have us all wondering what to do?

The task force says that most women don't need mammograms in their forties, and should get one every two years starting at the age of 50, unless you are high risk. This is a big change from the American Cancer Society's position of starting at 40. To make matters even more confusing, the panel said self breast exams are not effective.

Most of us seem to know someone who has caught breast cancer in the early stages in their forties or even in their thirties, through mammogram or a self exam. As of this morning, the American Cancer Society says it is not changing its position on this issue, and is still advising women to have yearly mammograms beginning at age 40.

The ACS is also worried that insurance companies will use the panel's new recommendations as an excuse to stop paying for mammography in women under 50. Congress mandates that Medicare cover annual mammograms, but if private insurers adopt the task force's policies, then many women may soon find themselves paying for annual screenings out of pocket.

So what's a woman to do? Talk to your doctor.