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Doctors debate recommended age for mammogram screening

May 2, 2012 5:54am
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(NECN: Kristen Doucet) - Most doctors agree that women ages 50-74 should get mammography screenings, but for years, recommendations for women in their 40's have been up for debate.

In 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services task force recommended against routine screenings in women ages 40-49.

UMass Memorial's Dr. Sarwat Hussain says he was not pleased with the recommendations.

"It really didn't help at all and I honestly think that it may have prevented some cancers from being brought to light because women stayed away from necessary mammography," said Dr. Hussain.

Hussain says women were told to weigh risk factors, screening benefits and risks.

He says the only harm is not getting a mammogram.

"Mammography between the ages of 40 and 50 saves lives by diagnosing a cancer at a stage that is not detectable by any other means," said Hussain.

Now, two new papers from the Annals of Internal Medicine could clarify things for women.

They suggest women who have dense breast tissue or a family history of breast cancer could benefit from mammograms starting at age 40.

While mammography technologist Lisa West agrees, she says there are flaws with these recommendations based on the patients she sees.

"A great majority of patients who we see are all different ages who have a diagnosed breast cancer and they have no family history of breast cancer," said West.

Dr. Hussain says while the debate continues, women need to be aware of the risk factors of not getting screened.

"Mammography is the only way that's going to pick up cancer at a stage where it will be totally curable," said Dr. Hussain.
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