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The optimal time to begin and end breast cancer screening and how often to have screenings are highly debated topics among professional organizations. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is a relatively pro-screening organization. It recommends yearly mammograms for women 40 and older. The American Cancer Society revised its guidelines in 2015 to encourage personalized screening decisions for women ages 40 to 44, with routine mammograms starting at 45. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force revised its guidelines in 2016 to encourage more personalized screening decisions rather than routine mammograms for women ages 40 to 49.

The researchers conducted this study as part of a broader project to understand what factors affect whether physicians adhere to the recommendations given by different organizations. A physician recommendation is one of the most important determinants of whether people obtain screening.

“Sometimes when cancer screening guidelines change, they recommend that we do less, that we start screening later, screen less frequently and end screening after a certain age,” said Craig Pollack, a co-author of the study and an associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University. “I think this can be incredibly challenging for doctors and patients because we are used to doing things in a certain way, so telling people to do less can run counter to our prior experiences caring for patients,” he said.

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