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Task Force Updates Guidance for Breast Cancer Screenings for Women 40 and Older

Breast Cancer (Credits: Healthline)

An expert advisory panel, the U.S. Preventive Service Task Force (USPSTF), has revised its guidelines for mammography screenings, recommending that women start regular screenings at age 40 and continue every other year until age 74.

This change comes in response to the increasing incidence of breast cancer among younger women, with rates rising by 2% annually. The new guidance aims to save nearly 20% more lives from breast cancer and address racial disparities in diagnosis and survival rates.

Previously, the USPSTF recommended biennial mammograms starting at age 50, with the option for women in their 40s to undergo individualized screening. The updated recommendation now encourages all women to start screening at 40, acknowledging the growing risk of breast cancer in this age group.

Mammograms should start at 40 to address rising breast cancer rates (Credits: ABC News)

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women in the United States, after skin cancer, and is the second-leading cause of cancer death, after lung cancer.

The new guidelines apply to women at average risk of breast cancer, as well as those with a family history of breast cancer and dense breasts. The USPSTF aimed to address racial disparities in breast cancer diagnosis and survival rates, as Black women are 40% more likely to die from breast cancer than white women.

However, the task force did not endorse additional scans for women with dense breast tissue, citing insufficient evidence. This decision may impact insurance coverage for extra scans, such as breast ultrasound or MRI.

Finalized guidance drops breast cancer screening age to 40 (Credits: Baller Alert)

The updated recommendation has received mixed reactions from experts and patient advocates. While lowering the age to 40 is seen as a positive step, the failure to recommend additional screening for women with dense breasts has raised concerns. Some argue that this decision may lead to reduced screening rates and delayed cancer detection, particularly among vulnerable populations.

Other experts suggest that women should undergo annual mammography screenings starting at age 40, rather than every other year. The American College of Radiology recommends all women have a breast cancer risk assessment by age 25 and annual mammography screenings starting at age 40.

The USPSTF’s revised guidelines aim to save lives and address disparities in breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. However, the debate surrounding the frequency and coverage of mammography screenings continues, highlighting the need for ongoing discussion and research to ensure optimal care for women’s health.

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