Doctor, survivor weigh in on new guidelines

TOPEKA (KSNT) — There’s confusion right now over when women should start having mammograms to screen for breast cancer.

“Why are we pushing something back that can help a women?” Nessa Johnson, cancer survivor, said.

On Tuesday, the American Cancer Society issued new guidelines recommending women start getting mammograms at age of 45, instead of 40.

“I don’t think we’ve harmed the American public by doing mammograms at 40,” Dr. Michael Hurwitz, oncologist at St. Francis Cancer Center said.

One of the reasons for the change stems from researchers determining that early testing leads to more false positives, which can be traumatic for women. “But how much is the trauma?” said Hurwitz. “How do they put a number on that? That’s their judgement.”

“I worry about the women that now are like, ‘Oh, I don’t have time to do that until I’m 45′,” Johnson said. “That is 5 years that something could be growing.”

A feeling Johnson knows all too well. She missed one mammogram appointment between the ages of 45, and 47, “So, when I had this one at 47 they were like oh there’s a big difference between this mammogram and that one.”

The test revealed she was positive for breast cancer. “The interesting thing with my cancer was you could not detect it with self-examination,” Johnson said.

It’s not just the age change on mammograms; the American Cancer Society also no longer recommends a clinical breast exam, or breast self-exams for women of any age. “I’m concerned about the women who we could’ve saved their lives,” Hurwitz said.

But the group also says it’s each woman’s and her doctor’s decision to make.

The recommendation does not impact health insurance plans, most of which are mandated by federal law to pay for mammograms.

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