Wednesday, October 21, 2015

ACS releases new breast cancer screening guidelines

Women can choose to start breast cancer screening as early as age 40

On Tuesday, October 20, the American Cancer Society (ACS) issued new breast cancer screening guidelines for women at average risk. The guidelines were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"The new ACS guidelines are based on
a solid foundation of evidence that
screening mammography saves lives."

Connie D. Lehman, MD, PhD
Director of Breast Imaging
Mass General Imaging

See the new ACS recommendations

"The new ACS guidelines are based on a solid foundation of evidence that screening mammography saves lives," says Connie D. Lehman, MD, PhD, Director of Breast Imaging at Mass General Imaging. "And the ACS makes clear that all women should have the opportunity to begin screening as early as age 40, and to continue screening every year."

The ACS does not believe that the guidelines will impact insurance coverage for mammograms this year. Women should contact their insurance company if they have any questions about their coverage.

Read the ACS FAQ about the new guidelines

"For a woman wanting to maximize the chance of early detection of breast cancer when it can be cured, annual mammography starting at 40 makes good sense,” Dr. Lehman adds, noting that age and frequency of screening may depend on a woman's personal values, preferences, and other health issues. 

“For a woman concerned about unnecessary tests or false positives, she should talk to her doctor about those concerns. And, she should know that being screened with modern 3D mammography (tomosynthesis) at a specialty breast imaging center can significantly reduce the risk of a false positive exam," she says.

The American College of Radiology (ACR) and the Society of Breast Imaging (SBI) continue to recommend that women get yearly mammograms starting at age 40. Read more

In April this year, the US Preventive Services Task Force reaffirmed its recommendation that women get bi-annual mammograms starting at age 50.

Mass General is convening a group of hospital-based experts, including breast cancer and women’s health specialists and primary care doctors, to address patients’ questions about breast cancer screening.

“I’m very pleased that the new ACS guidelines include an emphasis on allowing a woman and her primary care physician to work together to choose a screening strategy that feels right to her,” says Shana L. Birnbaum, MD, a primary care doctor at Mass General. “And I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues to incorporate the ACS guidelines into a hospital-wide consensus on breast cancer screening.”

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