PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The American College of Physicians issued its new guidelines Monday on when and how often women should be screened for breast cancer. The American College of Physicians now says women who don’t have any risks should get mammograms every other year, starting at age 50. But there’s plenty of disagreements about that, and more conflicting advice for women to sort through.
Forty-nine-year-old Norma Vaquerano is diligent about getting a mammogram every year. For her, it’s personal.
“One of my aunt’s was diagnosed with breast cancer about seven years ago,” Vaquerano said. “She passed away last year, so this is a subject close to my heart.”
At what age and how often women should get screened for breast cancer has been a topic of debate in recent years.
Now, the ACP says the majority of average-risk women ages 50 to 74 would benefit from mammograms every other year, and that there would be no significant difference in breast cancer deaths.
“The benefit is less than we had hoped,” Dr. Joann Elmore, of the UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center, said.
Elmore says annual mammograms can sometimes do more harm than good, from false positive results to unnecessary biopsies and surgeries.
“It leads to a lot of anxiety that can be a really scary situation for women,” Elmore said.
The American College of Radiology disagrees with the new guidance, saying it could result in thousands of unnecessary breast cancer deaths. Many groups still say mammograms should start at age 40.
Women are advised to discuss pros and cons with their own doctors.
“In the end, this should be the woman’s decision and we should be trying to help women understand all the data and let women make the decision,” Elmore said.
Because of her family history, Vaquerano says she’ll continue to screen annually.
“My doctor was very aware and she was the one that initiated ‘you need to do this,'” Vaquerano said.
Vaquerano believes it could one day help save her life.
The American Cancer Society says it’s not uncommon for recommendations to differ. Its guidelines have also changed in recent years, pushing the start of screenings back.