There has been so much confusion recently about how often women need mammograms. Many of us accepted the conventional wisdom that we needed annually screening once we reached 40 but especially after 50. But new studies have found that annual screening starting at 40 or even 50 doesn't necessarily save lives.
A new study from researchers at the University of California San Francisco suggests that even older women might rethink annual mammograms. The researchers looked at more than 140,000 women between 66 and 89.
They found that screening every other year does not increase the probability of late-stage breast cancer. But they also found that 48 percent of women between 66 and 74 who were screened every year had false positive results – meaning that their mammograms indicated incorrectly that they might have cancer or precancerous conditions. Only 29 percent of women who were screen every two years had false positive results.
False positives are a problem because they subject women to unnecessary anxiety and maybe even a biopsy.
The study was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Based on the study, the researchers recommend that older women be screened every two years rather than annually but this is a decision that you should make with your doctor. The frequency of screening would depend on your personal and family medical history as well as other factors.