CHICAGO (AP) — The American Cancer Society is revising its advice on when women should start getting mammograms and how often.  A Mayo Clinic expert questions one of the revisions.

The updated guidelines recommend annual breast cancer screenings at age 45 instead of 40 and switching to every other year at age 55.

The update moves the society closer to guidelines from an influential task force that recommends starting routine screening at age 50.

It's not a one-size-fits-all recommendation. Both groups say women's preferences for when to be scanned should be considered.

The advice is for women at average risk of breast cancer. Doctors generally recommend more intensive screening for higher-risk women.

The update also drops a recommendation for routine physical breast exams by doctors.

The guidelines were published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"That was probably the most important take-home message," says Sandhya Pruthi, M.D., a Breast Clinic physician and Mayo Clinic Cancer Center researcher. "The benefit of mammography has been shown to reduce death from breast cancer and women who are screened do get that benefit."

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women and the second deadliest cancer for women, surpassed only by lung cancer. More than 230,000 women in the United States are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.

Among the key updates by age:

  • 40-44 Should have opportunity for annual mammograms
  • 45+ Regular mammogram screening
  • 45-54  Annual mammogram screening
  • 55+ Mammograms every two years/annual opportunity
  • 70+ Mammograms for those in good health

Dr. Pruthi says, “So, we have been recommending for years that women in their forties be screened annually with mammogram. So, it’s nice to have the American Cancer Society support what we’ve been telling patients at Mayo Clinic.”

Dr. Pruthi does say she was surprised, however, that the ACS no longer recommends clinical breast exams by physicians for women of average risk. "I think that’s a little unfortunate, because I think there’s always an opportunity where the doctor may feel something that’s a little different on a clinical breast exam and a mammogram may not see it," she says. "Because we know that mammograms still may have a difficult interpretation, especially in dense breast tissue."

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