New mammography screening guidelines, released this week by the American College of Physicians (ACP), are causing confusion among women, yet raising key questions when it comes to breast cancer.
“They were saying that most breast cancers occur after the age of 60 (50 to 60 years), but in fact, half of the breast cancers occur under the age of 60 and those are very valuable. We lose a lot of life years by finding those breast cancers late and so there’s false information on part of the American College of Physicians,” said medical director for the Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center, Dr. Kamilia Kozlowski.
Modern-day mammography began in the 1980s and since then, screening studies have shown that breast cancer death rates have dropped 40 percent with yearly mammography starting at age 40, leaving medical experts to clear the confusion as to why some women should do it less often.
In reference to ACP’s new guidelines, Dr. Kozlowski said, “And they’re talking about the average woman ok? That’s a woman who has no family history of breast cancer,” while acknowledging not everyone is average.
The ACP’s new guidelines suggest starting your annual mammogram at age 50 and to do it every other year, whereas the American Cancer Society, the American College of Radiology and the Society of Breast Imaging suggest yearly mammography starting at age 40.
“And what they disregard in those guidelines are that black women have an increased risk of breast cancer and their breast cases are generally found earlier in the 40s, so they really have to start screening early. And they totally deny there’s some discrimination as far as race is concerned with those guidelines starting at 50.”
Dr. Kozlowski said the projection is, f women do start screening at age 50, the number of breast cancer deaths will increase by 10,000. In 2018, 42,900 women died from breast cancer.
“It makes it very confusing,” Kozlowski said. She went on to say it’s not worth the gamble when mammography saves lives, as does knowing if you have dense breast tissue.
“The breasts are not made to be bowls of Jello or marshmallows,” said Kozlowski.
A dense mammographic pattern can miss 40-50 percent of breast cancers.
“Tennessee passed its law in 2013 and was enacted in 2014 – the Breast Density Law that women need to be advised of their dense breast pattern – and now there are 36 states that have passed that law,” said Kozlowski.