American College of Physicians release new breast cancer screening guidelines


The American College of Physicians issued new breast cancer screening guidelines for average-risk women under 50 years old with no symptoms for breast cancer.   

It includes recommending women at age 40 to begin discussing the benefits, harms and personal preferences of screening with their doctor. Mammogram screenings would start at age 50, and then every other year until 74.

Related: Doctors say relying only on thermography for breast cancer screening not enough

What’s behind these guidelines? 

Radiologist Dr. Liane Philpotts with Yale Cancer Center responded, “They feel that the balance is tipped with having more harms than benefits in that younger age group. The false positives, people needing a recall or a biopsy for something that turns out benign.” 

What’s the evidence for the guidelines?

She said, “These new guidelines from the American Colelge of Physicians have looked at other peoples guidelines as well as the evidence that those guidelines are based on. “The incidence of breast cancer increases with age so the incidence isn’t as high and yet the chance of having a false positive on a mammogram in younger women is higher.”  

Is there current technology reducing risk of harm?

“We have new technology such as 3D mammography which really helps reduce the false positives. It also helps find more cancers,” said Dr. Philpotts. 

What should women keep in mind? 

She stresses, “These are really just guidelines and even these guidelines state that women at 40 to discuss it with their provider, to see what works for them. Do they favor having the chance of having early detection of breast cancer versus are they afraid of a false positive.” 

Dr. Philpotts also said insurance will still cover mammograms for women age 40 and older if they choose to have it. 

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