Last week, in the wake of the new American Cancer Society [ACS] mammography guidelines recommending that screening mammography should be conducted later in life and with less frequency, I shared the personal story of 28-year old Jennifer*, who reported a breast lump to her doctor but was told that it was “probably nothing,” and that she was too young for a mammogram. Well, a lot of folks had a lot to say on this topic. And so, I’d like to continue the conversation.
After decades of educating the public about the importance of early detection, the new guidelines are indeed confusing and controversial. In the new guidelines, the recommended age for annual screening mammography was increased from age 40 to age 45 for women “of average risk for breast cancer,” with biennial mammography for women between the ages of 55 and 74. But what does “of average risk for breast cancer” mean? According to the ACS guidelines, women are at average risk for breast cancer if they do not have: