Mammograms: Benefits Outweigh the Risks

I am often asked my opinion about the benefits and risks associated with mammograms.

Despite the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s controversial 2009 guidelines, which recommend raising the minimum age and reducing the frequency of breast cancer screenings, I still strongly recommend that women older than 40 years of age get annual mammograms for the early detection of breast cancer. And most experts — including the American Cancer Society, the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American College of Radiology — agree.

Although the task force did not raise issues related to the risk of radiation, many women and health care professionals were confused and concerned about mammogram safety when the group changed its original 2002 recommendations to suggest that mammogram screenings begin at age 50, instead of age 40, and continue every two years, instead of every year.

The risk of radiation-induced breast cancer associated with routine mammogram screenings of women age 40 and older, and the number of deaths expected due to such cancers, are extremely low, especially when compared to the benefits of these screenings. A recent landmark study confirms that mammography lowers breast cancer death rates by nearly a third in women age 40 to 49.

Please let your doctor know if this is a concern for you. We are happy to discuss this topic during your next visit so that you can make an informed decision.


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