Citing the frequency of false positives, a new study published in Annals of Internal Medicine supports every-other-year mammograms over annual mammograms. The study finds only a slight increase in finding cancer at a later, harder-to-treat stage when women have mammograms every two years, and a large decrease in the number of false positives.
But the idea is controversial.
“The debate on this subject is whether mammograms should be every other year or not,” says Nurse Practitioner Julie Schnieders. “I think the article was a little confusing; they mention 60 percent of women will be called back for extra views, but that’s over a ten year period women. That doesn’t mean that 60% of women get called back every year but that if you go yearly for 10 years you will probably get a call back for extra views one time—not too bad if you ask me.”
Julie points out that women having their first mammograms get called back a little more than women who have had a mammogram before: “This is because when you’ve had a mammogram, they have old films to compare your most recent mammogram to. It is important for women to remember where they had there films the last time for comparison. In fact, it’s a good idea to go back to the same place year after year and make sure you are getting a digital mammogram.”
But, as Julie so often urges, please don’t let fear of false positives keep you from getting a mammogram. They’re still the best way to detect breast cancer.