Today, the American Cancer Society released revised mammography guidelines. Those guidelines recommend that women at average risk begin getting mammograms at age 45 instead of 40, and that physicians forego giving clinical breast exams to their patients altogether.
Bright Pink continues to recommend that women at average risk get mammograms starting at age 40, and that primary care physicians provide a clinical breast exam to their patients annually.
In reflecting on these revised recommendations, we believe that there are three key points to emphasize.
The recommendations are for women at average risk. Unfortunately, we know that many women don’t know what level of risk they have for breast cancer, and physicians often aren’t engaging their patients under the age of 45 in a conversation about breast cancer risk. Recommending that women delay screening on the basis of risk demands a greater level of patient and provider attention to and conversation about individual lifetime risk of cancer. For women with a family history of breast cancer or genetic predisposition, mammograms before the age of 40 may be the recommendation. Our risk assessment quiz, AssessYourRisk.org, is a useful tool for women to use to understand their risk.
Additionally, the recommendation makes clear that women should make an informed choice about mammogram and we believe they should do the same in regards to clinical breast exams. It is appropriate for women to be active, informed participants in their own healthcare, and that they should always be involved in decision-making that weighs the potential harms against the potential benefits of these screening modalities.
Finally, Bright Pink believes it is imperative for women of all risk levels to practice breast self-awareness: knowing your family history of cancer, knowing what’s normal for your breasts, knowing the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, and knowing what steps you can take to reduce your own risk for the disease. To learn more about breast self-awareness, visit BrightPink.org.