Early mammogram detection necessary, according to new study

FAIRFAX, Va. (WJLA) -- In 2009, a U.S. government task force told women that mammograms for those under 40 years old led to too many false positive diagnoses. The government instead recommended that women wait until age 50 and go once every two years.

However, a new Harvard study says that the advice to wait can be deadly.

Busy mother Amy Polly is about to turn 39. With plenty to juggle, she counts on the government to get it right in telling her when to start getting mammograms.

“It's very, very frustrating to me,” says the Arlington resident. “It's like anything with my children. I want to do what's best for them and I certainly wouldn't want to put off something that's important.”

McLean resident Kristine Flamm also relies on government guidelines and her insurance company to decide when mammograms are necessary.

“It gets to be a bit much, so I just figure if I go and I get checked every few years that I'm probably okay. “

The new Harvard study looked at 7,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer, and of the women who died, 71-percent never had a mammogram. Half of those deaths were women under 50 years old.

Dr. Elise Berman is the Medical Director at Fairfax Radiology, and says that contrary to government guidelines, medical experts have long felt that early detection through mammograms saves lives.

"I think that every woman 40 and above should have a screening mammogram every single year," she said. "We need to give ourselves the chance to do as well as possible if we are diagnosed with breast cancer.”

Dr. Berman also says that new technology known as 'Tomosynthesis' lessens the issue of false positives, and that centers like Fairfax Radiology that offer appointments seven days a week for mammograms and biopsies can help busy women find the time to possibly save their own life.