When? Where? How often? What about Black women, who are not only more susceptible to developing breast cancer at earlier ages, but are also at a higher risk of having malignant tumors misdiagnosed...or diagnosed much later?
Especially if you're a woman, you've probably been told to prepare for your first screening mammogram around the time of your 40th birthday and then to have one every year (in some cases, every other year) after that. Note: that's just for routine mammograms; breast lumps always require a mammogram and/or other tests to start diagnosing whether it might be breast cancer.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Controversy
But in November 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) updated its screening recommendations and said that women of average risk for breast cancer could wait until age 50 to start getting mammograms and then follow up only every two years, rather than annually. The revised USPTF mammography screening guidelines marked a sea change from the recommendations being made by nearly all major medical associations, including the American Cancer Society, the American Medical Association, and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
These new guidelines set off a heated debate within the medical community and don't match up with most other mammogram recommendations from major medical organizations.
"We're having the scientific arguments back and forth and in the meantime, women, in a sense, get caught in the middle," says Len Lichtenfeld, MD, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.
It was widely reported, however, that the USPSTF was against screening entirely for women with an average risk of breast cancer between the ages of 40 to 49. That wasn't the case, says Diana Petitti, MD, professor of biomedical informatics at Arizona State University and vice chair of the 2009 USPSTF committee.
(Photo: PA Photos /Landov)