Doctors and the medical establishment agree, mammograms are important. What they do not agree on is the age at which women should start getting an annual mammogram. As experienced breast reconstruction surgeons and a compassionate plastic surgery staff, the whole team at Park Meadows Cosmetic Surgery urges you to discuss this important issue with your doctor.
On May 12, celebrity chef and TV personality Sandra Lee announced her breast cancer diagnosis and decision to undergo a double mastectomy. She was being interviewed by Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts, herself a breast cancer survivor. In the GMA video below, Lee and Roberts discuss the importance of early detection methods, including mammograms. Lee and Roberts received their cancer-revealing mammograms before the age of 50. In the interview, they both express frustration that current recommendations are to wait until you are 50, at which point the cancer would have been well-established for both of them.
According to WebMD, the US Preventive Services Task Force updated their screening recommendations in 2009 to suggest women of average risk of breast cancer wait until age 50 to receive a screening mammogram, and then to receive a follow-up every two years. The former recommendation was an annual screening mammogram beginning at age 40. The USPSTF has since countered, saying that the intention of the updated recommendations was to have each woman decide with her doctor on an individualized basis when she should get mammograms, instead of recommending a one-size-fits-all approach.
This updated recommendation remains controversial, and most women are confused about when they should get mammograms. Most medical organizations (including the American Cancer Society) and doctors continue to recommend mammograms starting at age 40 for women of average risk. The take-away message is that you should get whatever information you need to feel empowered to make decisions about your health. Discuss the various pros and cons of mammograms at age 40 vs. 50 with your doctor. Find out what the benefits and risks are of getting a mammogram starting at 40, and then decide what feels best for you.