New mammogram guidelines could cause confusion

The American Cancer Society tells us to start getting screened for breast cancer with mammograms at the age of 45. Now a doctors group is changing that advice, and it's a bit confusing. 

The American College of Physicians' recommendation is to wait until age 50 for your mammogram if you're at average risk - and that's a different message than what we've been told for years.

"In this day and age when there are so many different guidelines, they can be confusing sometimes. Making an informed decision is one of the most important things a patient can do for themselves, so they're screened appropriately and the cancers are caught appropriately," says Nidhi Sharma of Cleveland Clinic. 

So why wait? And why do these new guidelines suggest a mammorgram every other year?

It's to reduce the risk of false positive test results, over diagnosis, over treatment and radiation exposure. 

Here's the important thing to keep in mind: no guidelines are one size fits all for women, and each woman needs to talk to a doctor to develop her own plan. 

"Patients should also be paying attention to self breast exams, going in for their annual clinical exams and then make a shared decision with their physician what's right for them, if they should be starting screening at 45 or age 40, and what exact guidelines would suit that individual patient the best to make the best decision for their screening mammography," Dr. Sharma says. 

Important to keep in mind, these new recommendations do not apply to anyone who's had prior abnormal screening results or a higher risk of breast cancer due to personal history or genetic factors. 

The complete research results can be found in the Annals of Internal Medicine. 

But for now, this study leaves us with concerns about insurance coverages patient confusion.