New Breast Cancer Advice: Skip Mammograms in 40s and Breast Self-Exams Altogether


breast exam

A government task force has some new advice regarding breast cancer that flies in the face of the guidelines most women have been instructed to follow by their doctors. Here's the gist of it:

  • Most women in their 40s should NOT routinely get mammograms. (This guideline is for the general population, not those women who are at high risk of breast cancer because of family history or gene mutations.)
  • Women 50 to 74 should get a mammogram every other year until they turn 75.
  • The value of breast exams by doctors is unknown. And breast self-exams are of no value.

These new guidelines conflict with the long-standing position of the American Cancer Society, which has been recommending annual mammograms beginning at 40. The guideline addressing breast self-exams is less contentious; medical groups including the cancer society have recently backed away from encouraging women to perform self-exams because there is little evidence showing such exams to be successful.

The reasoning behind this new advice is that screening too early "leads to too many false alarms and unneeded biopsies without substantially improving women's odds of survival." In other words, there is no evidence that screening women in their 40s cuts the risk of dying from breast cancer; moreover, the harms for women of early screening (unneeded biopsies, expense, and worry) outweigh the benefits.

I'm conflicted here: The numbers in the article make sense to me; at the same time I know lots of breast cancer survivors whose lives were saved because of early screening.

Are you comfortable waiting until you turn 50 to have a mammogram? What's your opinion on these new breast cancer guidelines?


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Rebecca Howard

Mammos they suggest every 10 years. I got diagnosed at age 43 with no mammo. I noticed a lump getting bigger. A mammo at 40 would not have helped me at all. I am prone to cysts,which to an untrained eye could be a "lump" and would subject me to an extremely painful and invasive biopsy. I suggest ultrasound with mammo, and an MRI if there is any need. Biopsy only as a last resort. I have been through more than I ever imagined this year and do not believe any of this would have been helped by any of the current thought. I found this and had it looked at. We need to pay attention to our bodies and notice if anything seems unusual. Do not rely on a doctor or technology for everything. Those tests do not always work. They wanted to know how bad my cancer was, so they did an ultrasound,mammo AND and MRI. The truest results came from the MRI.

angel... angelaschatz

I am 41 years of age, and never had breast cancer in my family.  BECAUSE I demanded a mammogram, breast cancer was found.  Early stages...If I would have waited until my 50"s - I would have never lived past my 60"s.  Ladies - Follow your intuition.  Do breast exams, and even if you feel the slightest in irregularity, demand a mammogram.  It saved my life.

Monya Heath Williams

What a bunch of crap...... I hope no one will listen to this load of BS.   I have stage 3c breast cancer and would be dead if I had to wait until age 50.  There was no reason for me to think I had bc, my doctor ordered a mammogram because of another surgery I needed to have done and that is when they found the masses. I was not sick was training for a marathon and had no other reason to believe I had cancer, so yeah mammograms are important, self breast exams should be started in your 20's once a month.  This article really makes me upset.

lkdb99 lkdb99

I was 30 when I found my lump.  I found the lump, not a Dr so self exams DO WORK.  I went to the Dr. and had a mammogram and ultrasound which showed cancer.  I was Stage 1.  By knowing my body and feeling for lumps, I saved my own life.  After surgeries, chemo and radiation I was in remission and have been that way for over 2 years. 

nonmember avatar Elle

I am 23 and go in next week for my first mammogram due to a lump found by BSE and followed by my doctor for a few cycles. Had I not done BSEs I wouldn't know about the potential time bomb in my chest - screw you task force!

colin... colins_mom

My mother was diagnosed with a very rare form of bc in 2004. she was stage 3 when she felt it in a self exam. she went in for a mammo immedietly and we were told that had she waited any longer she would be dead. they gave her a year tops. but shes a fighter and didnt give up and 7 years later she is still going strong. in my family i have had my grandmother, my great aunt my mother and her two sisters diagnosed with breast cancer. my aunt and grand mother both passing away before the age of 35. im only 24 but i will be asking my doctor for a mammo this year because with out them i wouldnt have a mom right now.

nonmember avatar Mary

I founy my lump at 37

Mastectomy, cemo and radiation

Cancer knows no age

nonmember avatar Cancerallgone

I would be dead. My cancer was found at age 43, stage 3. I doubt I would be writing this two years later if it wasn't for that lump I found...keep on top of your health girls...or nothing else will matter.

nonmember avatar Krissy

I totally disagree! I was 23 when I discovered mine by self breast exam! If I wouldn't have got it checked when I did I would have DIED!!!! It was already Stage III. No way that they think this information is FACTS!!! I wish everything didn't revolve around money. There would be a lot less cancer If people really cared and weren't worried about making money!!!! All of this pisses me off. I will still encourage mammograms and self exams!!!!

nonmember avatar Renee B

I am appalled at this. My mom found her cancer thru self-examination and went on to have it confirmed by mammogram. We know how we need to check our bodies. Now what I recommend is that all of you pompous dudes don't ever check your balls for lumps. In addition, we recommend you wait until you're 60 to get your first colonoscopy. Dumbasses.

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