Proposed Changes to Mammogram Guidelines: What You Need to Know

Proposed Changes to Mammogram Guidelines: What You Need to Know

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The FDA is proposing changes to mammography standards for first time in more than 20 years


WHAT are the proposed changes?

  • The key changes include providing patients with information about breast density, in the form of a letter, with screening results.
  • They also consider advancements in technology, such as 3-D imaging, which can be preferable over 2-D imaging.
  • The new guidelines hope to improve communication between providers, imaging centers and patients.
  • They also seek to strengthen the agency’s ability to revoke and suspend operations at mammography screening facilities that are violating regulations. 

WHY is breast density important?

  • Mammograms of dense breasts are known to be more difficult to read and interpret, because the dense tissue can obscure signs of breast cancer and lower the sensitivity of the image.
  • Dense breasts are also known to be a risk factor for breast cancer.
  • More than half of women over age 40 have dense breasts, according to the FDA.
  • The FDA is proposing specific language that would explain how breast density can influence the accuracy of mammography and would recommend patients with dense breasts talk to their health care provider about high breast density and how it relates to breast cancer risk and their individual situation.
  • Newer technologies, such as 3-D imaging, can provide a cross-section of images of the breast from multiple angles, providing an “informed image” that is preferable to 2-D imaging, especially for women with dense breasts.

WHAT else?

  • These guidelines were proposed in late March. There is a 90-day review period for the proposed changes. After this period, there may be changes made before becoming final.
  • The American Cancer Society recommends mammograms every year between the ages of 45 and 54 and every other year after that for as long as a woman is in good health and expected to live another 10 years. Women younger than 45 should be given the choice to start annual mammograms, the cancer society says.

Talk with your provider about the best screening type and schedule for you.