As if women don't have enough to worry about between home, family and work – now they have to decipher what to do about mammograms. Wait until age 50? Push forward at age 40? The confusion swirling around mammograms have a lot of women wondering what to do now.
For Lisa Zeis, who had an aggressive form of cancer, there's no reason to wonder.
"Early detection is key," said Lisa. "If I had not conducted a self check and found my lump early, I could possibly still be fighting cancer that had spread or, even worse, not even be here to tell my story."
That's the bottom line for Guy Schropp, M.D., division leader of Women's Health Services for Alegent Health Clinic. He says guidelines are just that – guidelines.
"Waiting to begin screening until age 50 is not recommended by the American Cancer Society or the America College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG)," said Dr. Schropp.
In fact, the breast cancer screening guidelines issued by ACOG in July of 2011 recommend annual mammograms for women beginning at age 40. The group of physicians based their guidelines on outcomes, saying, "due to the high incidence of breast cancer in the U.S. and the potential to reduce deaths from it when caught early, we recommend mammograms every one to two years starting at age 40 and annually beginning at age 50."
Last autumn, the U.S. Preventive Service Task Force recommended fewer screenings starting at a later age – 50 instead of 40, which is the age recommended by the American Cancer Society.
Dr. Schropp says his patients are confused by the conflicting guidelines, but are more comfortable with earlier screening. It comes down to the relationship between doctor and patient. Women can have their own personal expert when it comes to breast health screening – their doctor.
The 3, 2, 1 of Mammograms
Zeis encourages women to take screening seriously. It's quick, it's easy and it's painless. Here are her top three things every woman should know about mammograms:
- If you're over 40, get a mammogram every year
- Do self checks throughout the year
- Do not put it off due to busy schedules – no excuses
Dr. Schropp offers two things women need to know:
- Mammograms can find a lesion a year or two before we can feel it
- It's easy for patients to miss something even with regular self exams
And the number one thing you must know:
- A mammogram can save your life - early detection is key