Why American Cancer Society has it all wrong

As many of you know, in addition to Domestic Violence Awareness month, October is also Breast Cancer Awareness month. Utica just had its annual Breast Cancer walk last Saturday which brought hundreds of UC’s students together to fight for a great cause. However, some controversial issues have threatened to overshadow Breast Cancer Awareness month.

This past week the American Cancer Society has released new guidelines stating that women should not have to start mammogram screening tests until forty five. The previously advised screening age was forty. While five years may not seem like a lot, Nursing students such as myself, and other medically minded people, along with breast cancer survivors, are alarmed at these new guidelines.

One and eight women will be diagnosed with Breast Cancer in their lifetime. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death in women. It is estimated around 220,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,000 will die. Although uncommon, over 7% of Breast Cancer cases occur in women under the age of 40.

When Breast Cancer is diagnosed in younger women, the cancer is often advanced and more aggressive. This is because younger women tend to have denser breasts which makes it harder to show up on a scan, many younger women will ignore a lump chalking it up to a cyst because they feel they are too young to get breast cancer, and even worse, often health care providers will do the same to younger patients who present with a lump.

With all these factors in mind it’s hard to believe that the American Cancer Society would lengthen and not shorten the guidelines for when to begin mammogram screenings. Many doctors feel that exposure to radiation and the fact that younger women have denser breasts, make getting a mammogram before forty more damaging then helpful. This definitely has some truth to it when talking about radiation, but most health professionals (especially cancer specialist’s) are saying they absolutely do not agree with lengthening mammogram screening another five years.

Many practitioners have already come forward saying they will ignore ACS’s guidelines and continue recommending scans starting at forty. However, because the American Cancer Society is so well respected in the medical world, insurances may start denying costs of prophylactic mammogram’s for a women before the age of forty five based on these new guidelines.

I whole heartily agree that mammogram screening should be started no later than age forty for women. I also think its important for more health care professionals, students, survivors, and politicians to start questioning the authenticity of American Cancer Society and what they stand for. The American Cancer Society claims to be a non-profit organization and that the majority of their donated money goes to cancer research. However, ACS has frequently made news for having their CEO’s make almost two million dollars a year, which is an awful lot for a non-profit.

Breast Cancer is such a treatable disease if caught early and treated aggressively. Health Organizations, Doctors,Nurses, Nurse Practitioners, Midwives, Physician Assistants, etc, should be doing everything possible to promote this ideology. Even though it is uncommon, Breast Cancer can strike at any age young or old. Young women should be educated on this and have a right to early screening tests such as mammogram’s.

Briody, B. (2013, April 8). 10 Insanely Overpaid Nonprofit Execs. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/08/10-insanely-overpaid-nonp_n_3038162.html

Breast Cancer Facts – National Breast Cancer Foundation. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-cancer-facts

Breast Cancer in Young Women. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/breast-cancer/guide/breast-cancer-young-women