New mammogram guidelines, issued by the American Cancer Society, are creating confusion about when women should get their first mammogram. We talk with one local clinic about how it chooses to advise women.

Breast cancer is the leading killer in American women, with more than 200,000 diagnosed each year.

Doctor Steven Harms of the Breast Center of Northwest Arkansas says despite general recommendations, individualized care is key.

“We’re not just interpreting an image, we’re trying to inform the patient of what care is best for them,” Doctor Harms said.
 
A complicated topic, just got far more confusing.
 
“I think it’s important that we individualize the recommendations for that particular person,” Harms said.
 
The American Cancer Society issued new guidelines, Tuesday, saying women can hold off on their first mammogram for another five years, until age 45.
 
“The down side of that is that you risk having larger more aggressive cancers,” Harms said.
 
The American Cancer Society says women should have a mammogram every year from ages 45 to 55, then conduct them bi-annually.
 
“A quarter of the new cancers we diagnosed with screening are in that group, [ages 40 to 50],” Harms said.
 
Doctor Steven Harms with the Breast Center of Northwest Arkansas says women that have a family history of breast cancer have an increased risk, and should start getting mammograms sooner.
 
“Most breast cancers that occur in younger women are more aggressive than in older women,” Harms said.
 
Yet, Doctor Harms also says mammograms frequently raise false alarms.
 
“What a false positive mammogram means is that you come back and get some additional testing,” Harms said.
 
The new recommendation also emphasizes the benefit of less mammograms.
 
“There’s savings in dollars for the healthcare system,” Harms said.
 
Doctor Harms says it is a woman’s personal decision to start screening, before they turn 45.
 
“If we find breast cancer early we can treat it with less severe treatments and more successfully treat it,” Harms said. “When we see a patient, we don’t see somebody coming in for a mammogram, we see somebody coming to be told they don’t have cancer.”
 
If you have any questions about these recommendations, Doctor Harms says you should sit down with your primary care provider.
 
For the full list of new recommendations by the American Cancer Society, CLICK HERE.