Art of Aging: Mammogram screening confusion

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For decades, women have been told to get mammograms starting at age 40, but now there is a change, and controversy in the guidelines. (WPVI)

For decades, women have been told to get mammograms starting at age 40, but now there is a change, and controversy in the guidelines.

Cass Miles says since she was 40, it's been simple - get a mammogram every year.

And now, in her 70s, she's keeping the yearly appointment.

However, the American Cancer Society says women with an average risk, need not start until 45.

A federal task force goes further, calling for screening to start at age 50.

Women who don't develop cancer can stop mammograms altogether at 74.

Main Line Health radiologist Dr. Tina Stein worries too many cancers will be missed.

She said, "Age is the biggest factor for breast cancer. 20% of breast cancers are found in women in their 80s."

And Dr. Stein says the shift comes as 3D technology enables doctors to catch more tumors, earlier.

"Personally, I've seen many that would not have been picked up by regular 2D mammography. At a 0 or stage 1, 95% of those can be cured," said Dr. Stein.

To clear the confusion, Dr. Stein and fellow breast cancer specialists at Main Line Health have set their guidelines.

"Women should begin at age 40, come every year - not every other year - until they are no longer physically able to get a mammogram," said Dr. Stein.

Cass was considered "average risk," with all her mammograms clear - until 2 years ago.

"Dr. Stein called me back and said they saw cancer," said Cass.

She's cancer-free now and thankful her tumor was caught early.

Cass said, "I have quite a few sisters, and I called every one of them, and told them you better be going, and getting those mammograms. One sister said - Oh, I don't go because it's been clear all the time, and i said - yeah, so was mine."

"Had I not come in that year and decided - oh, I'm not coming, I might not be here today," laughs Cass.

For more information on health and senior programs, visit our Art of Aging section.
Related Topics:
healthMain Line Healthmammogramhealthcheckart of aging
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