The American Cancer Society has revised their recommendations for women’s breast screenings, published in a recent JAMA article. These new guidelines are closer to the early detection suggestions made by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, a lesser-known government funded panel of women’s health experts.
In earlier years marked by the steep rise in breast cancer diagnoses, the American Cancer Society placed a higher priority on early detection. Now, however, as medicine and diagnostics become more sophisticated the annual mammograms are not necessarily as important as we once believed.
The new findings support beginning an annual mammogram routine at the age of 45 instead of 40, and also suggest that healthy women over the age of 55 can move to a mammogram every two years. This comes in part from recognizing the post-menopause changes to the breast tissue, which allow for cancerous cells grow more slowly.
For many women on either side of this spectrum, this may be welcome news indeed. However, there is unilateral support that individual women should not be making health care decisions on broad recommendations alone. The safest and most effective means of early detection and maintenance comes from having pointed conversations with your doctor to identify individual risk factors that may place you in a different risk category.
As access to preventative health care becomes greater and diagnostics become ever more sophisticated, high importance is placed upon the individual to be informed and proactive when it comes to lifelong health. New studies emerge and statistics change, but nothing can take the place of a well-informed, intentional approach to your long term health and wellness. As our grandmothers used to say: an ounce of prevention of worth a pound of cure. Ask your doctor for the updated protocols for self-exams and keep an open dialogue; as things in the medical world continue to chance, our best hope for a healthy future lies in awareness.
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