As of this November, the U.S. government is now recommending that women under the age of 50, not all women, stop doing breast self-exams and getting mammograms routinely for several reasons. According to the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC), the focus on breast cancer and preventing it has been making many women overly anxious. Every time women find a lump on their breasts they start to worry that it may be cancer, and this anxiety has led to an increase in visits to physicians and unnecessary biopsies, since many of these lumps are benign. Furthermore, the effectiveness of breast self-exams has not been proven. Many cancerous lumps are actually found by women or their lovers during other activities, such as sex or showering. Therefore, the government does not want to waste funding on unnecessary biopsies and help women become even more stressed (which is not good for overall health and could lead to other conditions.)
New guidelines set in place as of 2009 recommend that women start getting routine breast exams starting at age 50 instead of age 40, as well as avoiding self-exams. This is to help prevent unnecessary treatment and to keep women from exposing themselves to unnecessary risk. The risks associated with mammograms include radiation exposure, pain during the procedure, and false positive/false negative results. There are several health risks associated with either type of false diagnosis. Womens’ breast densities can vary greatly, making traditional mammograms less accurate than we’d like them to be and increasing the likelihood of false diagnoses.
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