PHOENIX (KSAZ) - The American Cancer Society updated several of its breast cancer screening guidelines including changing the recommended age for starting breast exams, and changing the recommended frequency. The guidelines also say it's ok to pass on a physical breast exam from your doctor, a change that one valley breast cancer survivor strongly disagrees with.
Diane Manno Ellis is a hairstylist, competitive powerlifter, and breast cancer survivor. At 37, her doctor felt a lump in her breast, one Diane had never felt during self-exams.
"When we found it I was already in stage 3, and it was in my lymph nodes and they had given me up to 4-years to live," said Diane Manno Ellis.
Now at 53, Diane is cancer free and says her doctor's manual exam saved her life. But a new set of guidelines from the American Cancer Society recommends skipping the clinical breast exam, among other big changes.
"A young woman will know her breasts much better than her doctor will, he might feel them once a year looking for a tumor, she can feel them everytime she takes a shower," said Dr. Donald Buckland.
Dr. Donald Buckland is the Regional Medical Director for US Healthworks, AZ. He says the new ACS guidelines also advise yearly mammograms starting at 45 instead of 40, then every other year once a woman turns 55.
"They're a x-ray which means you're talking about radiation, and radiation is a cause of cancer amongst other things, so if you do enough mamograms you're going to create a few cancers," said Dr. Buckland.
Dr. Buckland says mammograms for young women can also turn up "false positives," leading to unnecessary worry and painful biopsies. Having lived through chemo, radiation and a mastectomy, Ellis stands by the old guidelines.
"Had I hadn't gone in for my yearly exam, and she hadn't checked, I probably wouldn't be here today that is for sure," said Ellis.
Dr. Buckland says the new ACS guidelines don't apply to women who are considered high risk: those who have a 1st-degree relative who's had breast cancer, or those who are obese or drink a lot. In those cases, he says women should be getting tested earlier, around 35.