Screening mixed messages on mammograms Health: A quick look at the conflicting, changing recommendations from major cancer organizations.

April 01, 1997|By Linell Smith

Confused about the mammogram guidelines for women in their 40s? Consider yourself in the majority.

Last week, two of the nation's most influential cancer policy-making groups changed their recommendations yet again. You'd need a scorecard to keep track of it all.

So here it is:

The American Cancer Society, the nation's largest private cancer organization, recommends annual screening mammograms for women in their 40s. Previously, it recommended screening every one to two years.

The National Cancer Institute, the government's principal agency for cancer research and public education, now recommends screening mammograms every one to two years beginning at age 40. Women whose risk for breast cancer is higher should consider getting mammograms earlier. Its new guideline reverses a policy stating women aged 40 to 49 do not need regular screening for breast cancer.

A panel convened by the National Institutes of Health said it could not confirm the lifesaving value of routine mammograms for women in their 40s. The panel decided in January that women should weigh the evidence and decide for themselves whether to have the test.

All three groups agree on regular mammograms for women over the age of 50.

According to the American Cancer Society, 184,300 American women were diagnosed with breast cancer last year; 33,400 were in their 40s. It is the leading cause of cancer death for women in that age group.

Pub Date: 4/01/97

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