Breast cancer advocates question committee's recommendations

By Robyn McGlohn – bio | email
Posted by Dana Franks - email

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Local cancer organizations are up in arms about a government committee's newest recommendations for breast cancer screening.

Those recommendations encourage women to wait until 50 to get a mammogram and say that monthly self-breast exams don't do any good and women shouldn't be taught to do them. But some local groups believe this is a step backward for women's health..

The new recommendations regarding breast cancer detection seem to be re-igniting a decades old debate.

"We have seen such progress on breast cancer detection and breast cancer deaths that we are concerned this might set us back," said Joanne Henderson with the American Cancer Society.

She said the new guidelines will only confuse women and may altogether deter them from getting the test.

"It would be a few years down the road that we would really see the implications of this is, so we would continue to encourage women and urge women to begin getting those mammograms at age 40," Henderson said.

For years, the ACS and other health organizations have preached early detection. But in a report released this week, the US Preventative Services Task Force now says women age 40 to 49 should talk to their doctors before getting a mammogram, and women ages 50 to 74 should only get them every two years.

Melanie McDonald started her mammograms at age 29, and for a good reason.

"My mother found out at 41 that she had breast cancer," McDonald said.

Her doctor recommended she start getting mammograms early. He also recommended self-examination.

"We hear day in and day from women who have found their own tumor from being in a shower or they've noticed something different," Henderson said. "Again, it's that self awareness."

It's that same awareness that might save McDonald's life.

"Better to be checked and it turn out to be nothing than to not be checked at all," she said.

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