Nope, I’m not a doc, nor do I play one on TV, but I keep up on the latest health news, and the latest breast cancer guidelines shook me up and gave me a headache.  Advil anyone?  Oh, wait, I forgot that Advil now causes strokes.  The three organizations backing these big changes are:  The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, The American Cancer Society and the U.S. Preventive Task Force.

So, now the big 3 are saying women should start getting mammograms at 45 vs. 40, and that we all can skip the routine manual breast checks by docs.  If that’s what the science shows, then I wish I had known that a few years back.  And yet, there’s a big part of my brain that says hold on here – what’s the real harm in mammograms and breast checks (especially when I know so many women who caught their breast cancer between 40 and 45)?

Here’s what the docs are saying:  False positives run higher in women under 45 which might mean a biopsy and a real scare for women who don’t actually have cancer.  I get that. But not sure that’s enough of a reason to skip the checks.  And the docs go on to say that the literature (not Shakespeare) shows that mammograms at 40 and breast checks are minimally helpful in detecting cancer and saving a life.  But what about “Better safe than sorry?”

And somehow $$$ is always a factor.  Medicare covers screening mammograms for 40 year olds and over.  Will that mean that coverage will change to cover 45 year olds and younger women will have to pay out of pocket?  If so, mammograms can range from $80-$200.  Worth it?  I still think so, but I’ve been lucky so far in every possible way.  One thing is for sure – these shifting guidelines are confusing and mind-blowing at the same time.  And if they ever definitively find out that regular mammograms cause more cancer than find it, I (and many of my friends) am screwed.

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