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Medical Group Recommends More Frequent Mammograms To Reduce Breast Cancer Deaths

07-22-2011 09:04 AM CET | Health & Medicine

Press release from: American Association for Critical Illness Insurance

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued an update to their breast screening guidelines that they report could reduce the number of deaths caused by breast cancer, especially in young women.

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance some 1.5 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer this year. "Breast cancer is the leading cancer among women," explains Association director Jesse Slome "and anything that could help identify cancer earlier will save more lives."

The new recommendation recommends mammography screenings be offered to women annually beginning at age 40. The prior guidelines recommended mammograms every one to two years, beginning at age 40, and then annually beginning at age 50.

The recommendation has reignited a debate about the most appropriate ages and frequency for breast cancer screening. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists now believes annual testing will save more lives by catching cancers sooner. The association of gynecologists shifted away from its earlier wording suggesting that women “should have screening mammography’’ to a tone that simply advises doctors to offer it to patients.

That recommendation comes in marked contrast to advice issued 20 months ago by the US Preventive Services Task Force, a government-appointed independent panel that created a furor when it stopped recommending routine mammograms for women in their 40s after determining the small benefits of screening at that age might not outweigh the harm from finding abnormalities that turn out to be benign.

The new Association recommendation says deciding to have a mammogram is ultimately up to each woman, saying women 40 and older should be offered the screening annually. “Our thinking was that 40,000 women in their 40s are diagnosed every year with breast cancer and that 20 percent of these women who are diagnosed will ultimately die from the disease,’’ said Dr. Jennifer Griffin, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and lead author of the new recommendations.

The American Cancer Society, which explicitly recommends yearly mammograms starting at 40, reports that most of the benefits of screening mammography are achieved by starting at age 50 and continuing to have screening every two years until age 75. That is because breast cancers become more common as women age, which means screening has the potential to save more lives for those in their 60s.

According to data from the critical illness insurance association without screening, 30 out of 1,000 US women are expected to die of breast cancer. But that drops to 23 out of 1,000 if women undergo screening every other year from age 50 to 75. Beginning screening every other year at 40 saves one additional life per 1,000 women screened.

The American Association for Critical Illness Insurance is the national trade organization focused on educating individuals about the importance of critical illness planning. The Association's Consumer Information Center can be accessed at

American Association for Critical Illness Insurance
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Westlake Village, CA 91362

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