Some local doctors are reacting strongly to new federal guidelines that call for women to postpone getting mammograms until the age of 50. They say women in their 40s could increase their risk of dying from breast cancer if they follow the revamped recommendations.
New Mammogram Guidelines Worry Some Health Pros
New breast cancer screening guidelines stir fury and confusion
Wednesday, Nov 18, 2009 Updated at 6:39 AM EDT
The expert panel behind the new guidelines concluded that screenings have more drawbacks than benefits for women younger than 50. Two doctors from The George Washington University disagree.
Dr. Rebecca Bittner is one of them. She spent her career finding breast cancer in other women. A mammogram detected her own cancer when she was 43, and she's convinced it saved her life.
"I'm very lucky that I had the exam done and I really think that it should be available to all women," said Bittner. "Forty percent of breast cancers are diagnosed between the ages of 40 and 50."
Dr. Rachel Brem is head of Breast Imaging and Intervention at The George Washington University. One day after the new guidelines came out, her office had a large no-show rate of women who were scheduled to have mammograms.
"What the task force has done is said that the risk of a false positive mammogram is not worth saving lives," said Brem. She hopes women will continue getting annual breast cancer screenings once they turn 40.
The American Cancer Society agrees with her. The society is not changing its recommendations that women get routine annual mammograms starting at age 40.
Bittner had a mastectomy after her diagnosis. Today, she is cancer free. "I'm doing great," she said. "I'm looking forward to living the rest of my life."