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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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HCI firm on mammogram advice

By Deborah Rafferty

Amid the confusion and worry sparked by the federal government’s new suggestion that women shouldn’t start getting checked for breast cancer until 10 years later than originally proposed, the Huntsman Cancer Institute is holding steady to the traditional standard.

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force released new data Monday that suggests women do not need to routinely receive mammograms until they turn 50, and then they should get checked once every two years. Until now, women had been told to schedule mammograms starting at 40, which the American Cancer Society and the HCI maintain as their position.

In the United States, about 200,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year and 40,000 will die from it, said Saundra Buys, director of the HCI’s High Risk Breast Cancer Clinic and U professor of internal medicine.

“Breast cancer is the No. 1 cause of death of women in their 40s,” she said. The 40s is a critical decade for detection of breast cancer for women, she said.

Women have the risk of developing breast cancer their whole lives, Buys said. However, 90 percent of women will not develop it and, for them, it is not necessary to have a mammogram, she said. Buys said it has become more important to identify the 10 percent of women who will develop the cancer.

Researchers do not know what exactly causes breast cancer. They do know that genetics and the environment play an important role, Buys said. Researchers have a great deal of interest in figuring out who will develop breast cancer, and they have done multiple studies to determine risk factors, she said.

Buys said researchers are now focusing on figuring out at what age women should start to routinely receive mammograms.

“It’s not a cut-and-dry question,” she said. “This kind of health care debate is really valuable. I think as a society we need to have that discussion.”

Most women who get breast cancer are between the age of 60 and 80, Buys said. She said having women start to receive routine mammograms is not unreasonable. A woman should discuss with her physician about her risks to decide when to start routinely receiving mammograms, she said.

If 1,300 women in their 50s are screened, one life will be saved, and it takes 1,900 screenings of women in their 40s to save one life, she said.

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