Earlier this week, the American Cancer Society (ACS) released revised guidelines for breast cancer screening. Please see below for a summary of current recommendations:
- Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms if they wish to do so.
- Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
- Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or can continue yearly screening.
- Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.
- All women should be familiar with the known benefits, limitations, and potential harms linked to breast cancer screening. They also should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast changes to a health care provider right away.
These guidelines are a stark shift from the society’s prior stance of routine annual mammography for all women starting at age 40. Other professional organizations including the United States Preventative Services Task Force, the American Academy of Radiology and the National Cancer Institute, still vary considerably with regard to their recommended breast cancer screening strategies, and, clinically speaking, the new ACS guidelines change practice very little for primary care providers. An individualized approach is still necessary for all women including an in depth discussion of the risks and benefits of mammography between the ages of 40 and 50. Despite this fact, internal medicine providers can surely expect an influx of questions on this issue and must be familiar with ACS’s position to best educate their patients.