New Study Questions Federal Mammogram Guidelines

By Melissa Newton, CBS 11 News

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Survivors, non-profit organizations and doctors all say early detection is the key to living beyond a breast cancer diagnosis.

Now, a new study is raising questions about the current government recommendations determining when women should get breast cancer screenings.

In Nov. 2009, the U.S. Preventative Task Force revealed new guidelines recommending women start having mammograms every two years starting when they turn 50 instead of annual mammograms beginning at 40.

It also recommended doing away with self-breast exams all together, saying they do not impact the mortality rate.

According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 200,000 women in the U.S. were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010. Nearly 40,000 women died from breast cancer last year.

Gynna Harlin is living proof that early detection saves lives.

“I was diagnosed when I was 40,” said the 11-year survivor. “I had three small children, I had no family history, no indicators that I might be at a higher risk for cancer; so it was a surprise.”

Harlin worries that the current guidelines from the task force will discourage women from taking the right precautions.

“A lot of women came in asking questions,” said Dr. Noushin Firouzbakht of Texas Health Harris Methodist and Fort Worth Female Health Associates. “They were confused; what are the recommendations now?”

Firouzbakht’s advice to her patients never changed, despite the 2009 guidelines.

“Mortality and morbidity, meaning suffering from the breast cancer found, if it is breast cancer, is less if you detect it earlier.” she said.

New research seems to back that claim.

An analysis of the data used by the task force found a woman who gets annual mammograms starting at 40 reduces her risk of dying from breast cancer by 71 percent compared to 23 percent under the current recommendations.

The research published in the American Journal of Roentgenology even said annual mammograms starting at age 40 could save 65,000 women from breast cancer.

“They save so many lives and that’s what we’re trying to do.” said Ann Greenhill, executive director of Susan G. Komen for the Cure of Greater Fort Worth. “We want everyone to live a long and productive life, and mammograms are so important.”

“If I was not going to my doctor yearly, if I was not getting mammograms, no, I’m sure I would have a much different story,” Harlin said, “if I would even be here to tell it right now.”

Comments

One Comment

  1. Isabel says:

    I wanted to comment on the mammogram controversy. Loved the piece, by the way. I am a 53 year old female who was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2010. I have been having annual mammograms since I was 40. They saved my life since the growth was too small to detect. I will undergo radiation next week. Breast cancer does not run in my family. I would like to know whom to contact with regards to possibly repealing these new guidelines since the old ones saved my life! The growth was very small and was detected early because of my annual mammograms. Thank you for researching this piece of newsworthy journalism!

  2. Millie says:

    I was diagnosed in Nov.2010 with breast cancer after my anual mammogram.
    I was 75 this Jan, 2011. I believe women should have a mamogram every year starting at 40.
    I am so blessed that mine was caught so early and I only need radiation therapy.
    Thank goodness for the digital mamogram.

    Janusry 27,2011

  3. cindy says:

    I am concern about the radiation, from the latest information there is far more radiation with a mammogram than going thru the airport screening, and dental xrays. Yes, I know mammograms save lives, but I feel it should be up to the individual and their history. My doctor refuses to give me my medication unless I summit to a mammogram every year. I know having radiation every year the rest of my life can not be healthy.

  4. KITTY says:

    YES, WE SHOULD HAVE BETTER TECHNOLOGY TO CATCH BREST CANCER, OTHER THAN MAMO, BUT UNTIL THEN YRLY SHOULD BE HELD TO AT 50 AND AFTER AND AT 40 UP TO DR AND PATIENT FOR WHEN TO BEGIN, BUT MANY DR AND WOMEN WILL FOLLOW GUIDELINE BECAUSE NOT GETTING APPROVAL FOR OR BEING PAID FOR BY INSURANCE, AND PROBABLY WILL PROVE FATAL TO SOME WOMEN,
    IN THIS REGARD BETTER TECHNOLOGY AND FREQUENT SCREENING TO PREVENT SHOULD BE OUR GOAL – NO LESS THAN ONCE A YR.
    WE NEED A MORE PROACTIVE APPROACH TO OUR HEALTHCARE IN THIS COUNTRY AND GUIDELINES SUCH AS THESE SHOW NO INTELLIGENT CONCERN FOR WOMEN OR SAVINGS THEIR LIVES.

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