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Spokane oncologist disagrees with ACP's new recommendation for biennial mammograms

SPOKANE, Wash. - One in eight American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. It is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women around the world. Doctors recommend getting screened at your annual appointment to catch it early. However, the guidelines for that are changing, according to the American College of Physicians.

The new recommendations change a lot - the age to start getting mammograms, how often you get them and even home breast exams.

The ACP came out with new recommendations for breast cancer screenings Monday. Many, contradicting the practices we know and have been doing annually for years. But one Spokane doctor said she doesn't support the recommendations and you shouldn't either.

"Most people don't know the risk factors for a woman. You were born and you're a woman," said Dr. Anne Kieryn, surgical breast oncologist.

The ACP's new recommendation for women is to have mammograms every other year, instead of annually. 

"If we have a country that can do population screening, we should," Dr. Kieryn said.

In ACP's new recommendation, it said women should start getting mammograms at age 50, rather than 40. Dr. Kieryn, however, wants to set the record straight on that topic. She said she doesn't want the new recommendations to scare you out of taking care of yourself.

"In younger women, it tends to be a more aggressive cancer. If we catch that early, it's about curable. And we don't even have to give anybody chemo anymore if we catch it early enough," Dr. Kieryn said.

The statement said mammograms can cause harm by stressing women out, another change, Dr. Kieryn said is not true.

"We can handle a lot of stress. And it's actually not that stressful to find out that you don't have cancer or you don't have an abnormality," Dr. Kieryn said.

Another reason ACP backs their new recommendation, they said more mammograms lead to more false positives.

"We did a callback to do better imaging. That's not a false positive. That's a callback. And most women are like - I'm fine, okay. Now, I know," Dr. Kieryn said.

And in case you're concerned about radiation, Dr. Kieryn doesn't want that to deter you from getting an exam.

"People worry about - oh, it's too much radiation. It's the equivalent of - if you like to just go out into the sun, hangout in the sun for a few days. That's how much a mammogram is," Dr. Kieryn said.

All in all, Dr. Kieryn said it comes down to quality of life.

"Work life years are a big deal in our economy, in our nation. Women work, and if you can actually give somebody their life back by catching it early, well that's a lot of work life years, too," Dr. Kieryn said.

Beyond mammograms, according to the ACP, the recommendation for self-breast exams are also changing. The college said there is no benefit, but there is potential harm, because of false alarms.

Dr. Kieran's take - she said there is nothing wrong with knowing your own body. She encourages women to continue checking themselves every month.


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