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Task Force: Mammograms, an option at age 40

Posted at 4:34 PM, Jan 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-12 19:09:09-05

The latest set of recommendations for when and how often women should get mammograms is coming from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

The federal panel suggests women ages 50-74 should get mammograms every two years, while women in their 40s should consider them based on risk factors.

But compare that to the American Cancer Society, which made headlines in October, recommending women start yearly checks at age 45, and drop it down to one test every two years at age 55.

Adding to the confusion, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggests women start yearly checks at age 40.

"It's hard to know what the right answer is," said Dev Paul, D.O., Ph.D., an oncologist at Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers. "Everyone realizes that these studies are not 100 percent and there are problems with all of the studies done."

One of the big arguments for screening every two years is the stress surrounding 'false positives,' when a mass undergoes a biopsy, but ends up being benign.

"We kind of wasted the woman's time doing all that stuff, it cost a lot of money, and for a lot of women there's a lot of anxiety," said Dr. Paul. "You do all this work and it's negative."

But for his patients, Dr. Paul recommends starting yearly screenings at age 40, despite conflicting guidelines.

"The bottom line is they have some guidelines for us to follow, and they are guidelines," said Dr. Paul. "It doesn't mean you have to do this or not, and sitting down with the physician and patient together -- they can decide what would be best."

Later this month, more than 30 groups will meet for a conference and try to reach a wider consensus about mammogram screenings, including when and how often women should get checked.

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