Columbia doctors have mixed reactions to new mammogram guidelines

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COLUMBIA - The American Cancer Society released new guidelines this week for when a woman who has an average risk for breast cancer should get a mammogram. 

The guidelines now say a woman should wait until she is 45 get yearly mammograms. Once a woman is 55 she can begin switch to getting mammograms every other year, according to an article in the New York Times

An average risk woman is one with no previous breast cancer history in her family. 

Dr. Debra Koivunen with the University of Missouri Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, said she agrees with the new guidelines. 

"I think I like the American Cancer Society's recommendations," Koivunen said. "However if I have a patient who it would be mentally disturbing to wait five years we'll do one."

A woman's risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer increases with age. Koivunen said most women who are tested young usually find benign tissue.

Dr. Joseph Muscato, with the medical director of the Stewart Cancer Center at Boone Hospital, said it's important to know the American Cancer Society said a woman who wants a mammogram is entitled to one. 

"The controversy here is what's the trade off?" Muscato said. "Mammograms reduce the risk of dying of breast cancer. That's not arguable. So the question is, what's the risk of getting a mammogram."

Koivunen said money is one of the driving factors in the American Cancer Society's change. She said when women have to undergo biopsies for benign tumors it causes unnecessary mental and financial distress on the patient.  

Muscato also said he thinks these new guidelines could confuse many patients and physicians. 

"The American Cancer Society, very well respected," Muscato said. "Sort of dropped a bombshell on all of us yesterday afternoon by putting out new recommendations for mammography. Changing the recommendations that have been present for years, even decades."

Koivunen said the ultimate decisions regarding mammograms should be made between a woman and her primary care provider. 

The age recommendations have not changed for a woman who has a high risk of breast cancer.