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Largest Ob/Gyn Group Backs Annual Mammograms in 40s
Date:7/20/2011

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, July 20 (HealthDay News) -- The value of annual mammograms for women in their 40s -- the topic of a lingering debate among health policy and advocacy groups -- has drawn resounding support from the nation's largest group of obstetricians/gynecologists.

On Wednesday, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued new guidelines calling for mammograms to be done every year beginning at age 40. This is a departure from its previous recommendations, which advised mammograms every one to two years beginning at 40 and then annually beginning at age 50, based on the incidence of breast cancer in younger women and its typically more rapid progression, guidelines co-author Dr. Jennifer Griffin explained.

The guidelines conflict with those issued in late 2009 by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which recommended screening mammograms only every other year beginning at age 50 because they can result in many false positive results, prompting unnecessary biopsies and additional tests.

"I think the main point we considered was that about 40,000 women every year in their 40s are diagnosed with breast cancer, and about 20 percent of them will die from it," said Griffin, an assistant professor of OB/GYN at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. "Screening mammograms reduce the risk of dying by 15 percent" in this population.

More than 207,000 American women were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in 2010, according to ACOG, and nearly 40,000 died from it. Breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer among women in the United States after skin cancer. It may be detected by a mammogram while it is very small and before it grows big enough to become symptomatic.

A key factor in the ACOG recommendation is the shorter "sojourn time" -- the time period in which a breast cancer can be detected by a mammogram while it is sti
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