ACS Issues New Mammogram Guidelines

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and on every third Friday of October is National Mammography Day. Just in time for a day promoting early breast cancer detection, the American Cancer Society has issued new recommendations for when women should get mammograms and how often.
The ACS updated its guidelines on mammograms in a paper published in JAMA Tuesday.  The updates are:

  • The minimum age at which a woman of average risk should start getting routine mammogram is 45 (it was previously 40).
  • Women ages 45-54 should get mammograms every year and those 55 and older should receive the breast cancer screenings every other year.
  • Recommended that doctors stop screening women with a life expectancy of less than 10 years.
  • Recommended against the routine clinical breast examinations.
While the ACS raised the age of recommended routine mammograms to 45, the organization also emphasized that women should still have the opportunity to be screened earlier and as frequently as they choose to.  However, these recommendations apply to women with average risk only. Those with higher risks – have a gene variant like BRCA1 or BRCA2, a family history of breast cancer or have had cancer in other parts of the body –  should receive more intensive screening.
The ACS recommended against screenings for women with terminal illnesses or diseases because of the unnecessary emotional toll it would have on a person who would most likely die from another cause rather than from the breast tumor itself. The ACS also recommended against manual breast exams, although doctors are free to perform them if they want to. The ACS states that doctors shouldn’t feel obligated to perform them since mammograms are a more effective tool in screening for cancers and that physicians could better use the time during an appointment.
However, the American Cancer Society is not the only organization to issue cancer screening recommendations. The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force suggests screenings every other year after age 50. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend annual mammograms at age 40.

In addition, for those on Medicare, Medicare recommends and pays for a screening mammogram to check for breast cancer once every 12 months for women over the age of 40.
This is such an important component of your care that the screening mammogram is included in the 5 Star Quality Rating system that Medicare utilizes to rate the quality of Medicare Advantage plans.  If a PCP has a high percentage of his/her patients that have not had this important screening completed the PCP, and consequently, the plan’s star rating is downgraded.

To schedule a mammogram, call your Primary Care Physician today.