On the other hand, he said, another 40-year-old woman might be very frightened of breast cancer and want the screening. For her, Baron said, he might advise sticking with annual screening.
To women 50 and up, Baron said he would say: "I think it's important to have a mammogram. Whether you want to have it every year or every two years is negotiable."
And for his patients 75 and older? "It's really a matter of individual choice," he said.
The task force has drawn criticism for recommending fewer mammograms and starting them later. But Baron offered another perspective. "I respect them a great deal," he said. "They've got no horse in the race. They are independent experts."
He said the task force did its best to sort through the available evidence and come up with the most scientifically sound guidelines.
Women should also realize that the results of future studies might change the recommendations yet again, Baron said. And no matter what the recommendations are, he said, women must always discuss their own medical history and risks with their doctors when making a decision about screening for breast cancer or any other disease.
The best advice, according to Baron: Know the guidelines. Know your risk. Decide with your health-care professional the best screening schedule for you.
The American Cancer Society has more on mammography.
SOURCES: Karla Kerlikowske, M.D., director, Women Veterans Comprehensive Health Care Center, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, San Francisco; Jud
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