Women in their 40s continue to undergo mammograms despite recommendations against routinely starting them at that age, a survey found. Two-thirds of women weren't even aware that women not at-risk for breast cancer due to family history or other reasons can wait until age 50 to start mammograms every two years.
Eighteen months ago, the U.S. Preventive Services Task force released recommendations that mammograms for women in their 40s led to too many false positives, unnecessary worry and biopsies, and saved relatively few lives. Instead, women in their 40s were advised to discuss their family history of breast cancer and genetic markers such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 with their doctors, and make a personal decision about whether or not to get screened. Otherwise, routine mammograms every two years would begin for women ages 50 to 74.
Despite widespread news coverage amid controversy about the recommendations, which were the published in the Nov. 17, 2009 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, the new poll by Harris Interactive/HealthDay found that 66% of women in their 40s hadn't heard about them. And, 72% of women in their 40s disagreed with them. Just 12% thought that 50 was the right age to start getting the imaging tests.
The poll found that 77% of women in their 40s have already had at least one mammogram, while 64% reported getting one annually, the poll found.
Women were asked: "At what age do you think that women with no special risk factors for breast cancer should start having mammograms?" Their responses were:
Specifically, 45% of the women polled said the task force pushed back the recommended age to 50 to reduce health-care costs and avoid administering unnecessary tests, while 30% believe the task force made the recommendation because excessive tests produced too many so-called false-positive results, leading women to unnecessarily think they had cancer when they did not.
Women were asked: "For many years, guidelines have recommended starting mammograms for those with no special risk factors for breast cancer at age 40. Recently experts have changed this to age 50. Which of the following do you think are among the main reasons why some experts say mammograms should start at age 50, not age 40? Please select all that apply."
Their responses were:
The poll of 1,083 U.S. adult women was done April 18-20.