Government Panel Says Women Should Wait Longer Before Getting Mammograms

By: Stephanie Satchell Email
By: Stephanie Satchell Email

November 17, 2009

It was once thought that women should get their first mammogram at age 40, but just three days after a breast clinic at Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, not everyone agrees on that number.

A government panel of doctors and scientists now say women should wait an extra 10 years, to age 50, before getting tested. They say mammograms done before age 50 result in too many false positives.

"I think, based on the findings, they're looking at the false positive. From ages 40 to 49 or 50, they're finding that there are a lot more false positives in that particular age group," said Cindy Stillwell, a certified Thermographic Technician.

Stillwell operates a thermography clinic in Zion Crossroads and uses heat to screen for abnormalities like types of breast cancer. She has been pushing for a change in the age guidelines for years.

"There can be a lot of biopsy and things that are done unnecessarily. It's not to say that mammograms aren't good things to do, it's just something that you should decide with your doctor," said Stillwell.

Despite these new findings, the American Cancer Society still recommends mammograms at age 40, and say waiting until age 50 is not recommended for women who have high risk factors for breast cancer.

Whether women choose mammograms, thermography, or self-exams, doctors agree that women should use as many resources as possible to make sure they stay healthy.

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