Research says mammograms can be done later, but doctors may not follow guidelines

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Early detection saves lives - that's what we've been told about breast cancer for decades. But now a new study confirmed some messages are hard to unlearn. (KABC)

Early detection saves lives - that's what we've been told about breast cancer for decades. But now a new study confirmed some messages are hard to unlearn.

The latest research showed more than ever women need to be their own advocates.

When an independent government task force recommended women in their 40s stop doing annual mammograms in 2009, Patricia Robles chose to ignore the advice.

"I want to make sure that my health is fine," she said.

A new Johns Hopkins study found not only are many women in their early 40s still getting yearly mammograms - four out of five doctors surveyed still told their patients to get them.

"I think there are a lot of factors that contribute to this," UCLA breast surgeon Dr. Deanna Attai said.

According to Attai, many primary care physicians and OB-GYNs prefer to follow the advice of medical societies that recommend women start at age 40, but many doctors have also kept track of conflicting research.

"Sometimes with all of the confusion, the easiest is to default to what we've always done," Attai said.

For decades, we've been told that early detection saves lives, but now the science and the message is not as clear. Experts said it's going to take time for patients and doctors to catch up.

"Slowly patients are becoming aware that maybe more testing isn't better. We're seeing that in other specialties as well, but it's a very slow process and a very slow change," Attai said.

Attai added that many of her patients are starting to understand more testing doesn't always lead to better outcomes and may result in unnecessary biopsies and anxiety.

The bottom line: discuss your individual testing needs with your doctor. Ask all your questions.

"It can be very challenging when you're in a busy practice to explain this to your patients," Attai said.

So also make sure your doctor is prepared for this conversation.
Related Topics:
healthmedical researchstudydoctorscancerbreast cancerhealthy livingmammogram
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