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Task force updates recommendations, mammograms should start at age 40

According to the CDC, breast cancer screenings dropped 87% in 2020. There was a 98% decline in screenings for Native American women.
Katie Thoresen
According to the CDC, breast cancer screenings dropped 87% in 2020. There was a 98% decline in screenings for Native American women.

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recently changed its recommendations for mammography-based breast cancer screenings back to what it was in 2009.

Based on evidence that it would benefit younger women, the task force recommends biennial screening from age 40 to 74.

Between 2015 and 2019, the average annual increase in breast cancer rates was 2% per year according to Julie Burt. She’s the lead mammographer and imaging director for the Forest County Potawatomi Health Division.

“We're seeing definitely in an increase. I can't really honestly say why. I think a lot of it has to do with technology, that we're catching things earlier, especially with 3D mammography. But it's been very eye opening in the last couple of years,” said Burt.

Catching breast cancer early is the best way to successfully treat it and one of the best ways to detect breast cancer is through mammograms.

Burt says the task force recommendations are a step in the right direction and hopes they’ll continue to change.

Different medical groups have different recommendations. The American College of Radiology, for example, recommends annual screenings starting at age 40.

Following the ACR recommendations, Burt recommends women talk with their healthcare provider by the age of 25 about their personal risk for breast cancer.

Family history, genetics, or previously having other types of cancer can all increase your risk.

“There are a lot of other avenues, but all women should be assessed for their risk for breast cancer by age 25, and then a plan can be developed between that individual and their provider about when they should actually start with their screening mammograms,” said Burt.

Prior to age 50, minority women are 127% more likely to die of breast cancer.

Talking with your doctor can help determine if you are someone with an increased risk for breast cancer.

Burt also recommends women practice self breast exams and encourages people to not be afraid of getting a mammogram.

“It's unfortunate over the years that when you hear the word mammography, you automatically think breast cancer. That's not meant to be the case. Mammography is preventative. It's a screening tool,” said Burt.

You can view the updated recommendations here.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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