The American Cancer Society has revamped its guidelines on mammograms, recommending that patients start them later and do them less often.

They announced the shift in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The New York Times reports the influential organization now says that “women with an average risk of breast cancer start having mammograms at 45 and continue once a year until 54, then every other year for as long as they are healthy and likely to live another 10 years.” Plus for patients without red flags, they’re no longer backing the in-office exam where the doctor palpates your boob for a while. Previously, they said to start doing both annually at 40. Again, that’s for those with average chances, not for anybody high risk, and of course the idea is that medical providers take these guidelines into account in discussions with their patients, not for you to blithely skip routine doctor’s appointments.

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Bloomberg Businessweek spoke to Kevin Oeffinger, who’s with Sloan-Kettering and headed up the panel that made the changes. He explained:

“After looking at literally hundreds of studies, we were convinced that mammography remains an essential tool, and it is still the single best tool for preventing a premature death in a woman with breast cancer,” Oeffinger said. “But most women will not have breast cancer. You can think of mammography as an insurance plan — something you hope you won’t need but you’re glad to have if you do.”

But of course the subject of how many mammograms and how soon is a hotly debated subject, as we’ve covered before. It seems unlikely the controversy will simply die down, because that is not how controversies about women’s healthcare works.


Contact the author at kelly@jezebel.com.

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Photo via AP Images.