Survivor, Doctor worry new breast cancer guidelines could cost lives

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. - The American Cancer Society announced a new set of guidelines for mammograms.

Nicole Smith’s battle began when she was 40. She has no family history.

"I was diagnosed at an early stage. If I would have waited until 45 and followed that guideline, who knows what stage I would have been diagnosed at,” Smith said.

The new guidelines released Tuesday by the American Cancer Society suggest women push back their first mammogram from age 40 to 45.

"My fear is that people are going to postpone it and get diagnosed at a later stage and maybe at a stage where it's too late to intervene," said Smith.

Doctor Linda Harrison has the same fear. She works for Diagnostic Imaging in Overland Park and sees breast cancer on a daily basis.

Dr. Harrison said age 40 is when she starts to see breast cancer more frequently.

"We still feel strongly. And this is supported by data, by good data, that screening for breast cancer should begin at the age of 40 for someone who is average risk,” Dr. Thompson said.

The American Cancer Society believes mammograms come with a risk, too.

It cites the amount of false positive tests an issue that can lead to unnecessary procedures that can cause anxiety and stress.

Dr. Harrison said false positives only make up about 10 percent of the screenings.

"New techniques including 3D mammography is reducing the number of false positives. So I think we're trying to address those issues,” Dr. Harrison said. “And I still as a women, I would still want to know, I would still undergo a biopsy and finding out I don't have breast cancer, that's ok, that's ok with me."

Smith knows if she wouldn’t have been screened right after her 40th birthday, she may not be sitting here today.

"I think some people may lose their lives because of that decision. I really do believe that early diagnosis saved my life.”

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Lexi Sutter can be reached at alexandra.sutter@kshb.com.

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