Doctors change mammogram screening recommendations in hopes of saving lives

Each year more than 40,000 women die of breast cancer in the United States. But this week, the US Task Force for Prevention Services (USTPS) says they’ve found a way to possibly save thousands of lives.

The new recommendation by the USTPS calls for women beginning at age 40 to get a mammogram every two years, then annual mammograms once they hit reach age 50. The prior recommendation from the task force was for women to begin getting mammograms at age 50.

Dr. Brian Dontchos, a breast imaging radiologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, says the recommendation better aligns with other screening recommendations, including the American Cancer Society and the American College of Radiology.

“We support that women, often in conjunction with their doctor, and other medical advice, can decide to screen every year or every other year. But we do recommend starting at age 40,” says Dr. Dontchos.

KIRO 7 asked Dr. Dontchos about an influx of patients because of the new recommendations, and whether they would impact wait times. He doesn’t foresee that being an issue.

“We really would like to get our patients in as quickly as possible,” says Dr. Dontchos. “We don’t anticipate any problems with access.”

He does hope that they’ll see a rise in patients of color. The American Cancer Society Journal reports that black women are 40% more likely to die of breast cancer than white women.

“And so if we start inviting all women to screen at an earlier age hopefully we can narrow some of that gap we see in those mortality rates,” says Dr. Dontchos.