A new study on when women should begin routine breast cancer screenings is stirring up debate

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Harvard researchers say mammograms before age fifty could dramatically cut deaths from breast cancer.

In 2009, the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) controversial recommendations for mammography was fifty then every other year until age seventy four. Before this patients were told to start at forty, now, researchers say mammograms before age fifty could save lives.

Forty three year-old Suncoast resident and mother of six, Mary Redman's world came crashing down when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. "It was stage one, it was very very early." she said, "I was shocked actually, I was very shocked, because I'd never been a smoker, I'd always exercised I've been very active my whole life,"

After discovering a breast lump at the gym, her doctor sent her for a mammogram even though she had no family history, the mammogram revealed a suspicious lump and she went for further tests which may not have been ordered had she not had the mammogram. 

Redman said, "Mammograms are very important because they can detect things early, if there's anything in your breast that's suspicious it can detect it."  Yet, there is still debate over when women should begin routine breast cancer screening, and this, may be why.

"Because the mammograms have gotten better, we are finding these little lesions called Ductal Carcinoma In Situ, (DCIS)" Said Caryn Silver, M.D. of Florida Cancer Specialists. Technically termed stage zero breast cancer, DCIS stays within its little area it has zero risk of metastasis. "We have seen an increase in very early stages of breast cancer that perhaps might not have become problems." She said.

The American Cancer Society did not change their guidelines, even when the USPSTF recommended age fifty for baseline mammograms.

"The American Cancer Society still recommends mammograms at the age of forty and above on a yearly basis." Said Dr. Silver.

The recommendations of age fifty by the USPSTF were aimed to balance between catching the most breast cancer cases early while limiting the potential downsides of false positives and costs. But, for Mary Redman, early mammography made a difference.

And she was was emphatic, "Get the mammogram, it does not matter if there's history, it doesn't matter if you're a non-smoker it doesn't matter just get it done."