In November 2009, the federal Preventative Services Task Force announced its recommendation that most women put off routine mammograms until the age of 50, and receive them biannually instead of once a year. The response for the most part was uproar—not just from the American Cancer Society, many medical professionals and Congress, but also from women across the country. Women who have grown up listening to "cancer prevention is key" were baffled by the new message to put off mammography until later in life and even stop practicing self-exams.
So where does the mammogram debate stand now? A joint study by the American College of Radiology and the Society of Breast Imaging published in this months’ issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology now backs what previous research suggested: That women should begin annual mammography screenings at the age of 40—and even earlier for women with higher risks of breast cancer due to genetic mutations or family history.
Carl D'Orsi, MD, Co-Chair of the American College of Radiology Breast Imaging Commission and Chief of Breast Imaging at Emory University, is one of the researchers who worked on the recent study—which was well underway before the federal Preventative Services Task Force's recommendations were released. He answered some of our questions regarding the study, and also shed light on the risks versus benefits of a mammogram procedure.