Waco: New breast cancer screening guidelines leave some confused

(Photo by Madison Adams)
(Photo by Madison Adams)(KWTX)
Published: Jan. 13, 2016 at 5:49 PM CST
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A new and controversial final recommendation was released this week by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) on the topic of women’s health and breast cancer screening.

The information has left some women confused about what age mammogram screenings should start and has left others frustrated.

The final recommendation states that, “the USPSTF recommends screening mammography every 2 years for women ages 50 to 74 years.“

Shawnna Latino started having yearly mammograms at age 40 even though the national opinions at the time recommended them every other year.

“I believe that much in them and I wasn't going to take a chance. Every year, on the dot, I had my mammogram,” Latino said.

She was diagnosed at age 45 with invasive ductal carcinoma with micrometastasis.

"I didn't have a mass. It was strictly picked up by mammogram alone,” Latino said.

With the new recommendation being at age 50, Shawnna’s breast cancer may have never been detected.

"If I was 50 and just now getting my first mammogram I would be dead,” she said.

For her, the early mammogram gave her a head start on her battle against breast cancer. Dr. Carl Chakmakjian is a medical oncologist at Texas oncology and says early detection is key.

"The idea is to try and find breast cancer as soon as possible and the sooner we find it the higher the likelihood for cure,” Chakmakjian said.

The Providence Breast Health Center conducted some research that showed the importance of early detection.

"About 15 percent of the patients that have been diagnosed with breast cancer were in their 40's or younger," Chakmakjian said.

The recommendations by USPSTF go on to say, “The decision to start screening mammography in women before age 50 years should be an individual one. Women who place a higher value on the potential benefit than the potential harms, may choose to begin screening every 2 years between the ages of 40 and 49 years.”

Bottom line, doctors say the decision on when to get a mammogram needs to between a woman and her doctor.

"I think the final say comes down to a decision between the doctor and their patient,” Chakmakjian said.

Shawnna remains an advocate and even made a t-shirt to emphasize her stance.

"Get your yearly mammogram. It could save your life and in big bold print, ‘it did mine,’ and nothing and no one could make me believe otherwise,” Latino said.

Doctors say ruling by the USPSTF is often what insurance companies go by when deciding what they will cover.

It is yet to be known if insurance companies will change their coverage of mammograms based on the new age recommendations.