Some doctors, breast cancer survivors skeptical of new screening guidelines

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DENVER -- Screen later and less often: the controversial new breast cancer screening guidelines put out by the American Cancer Society.

A new perspective comes out as some survivors say, without early checks, they'd be dead.

FOX31 Denver's Aristea Brady introduces us to one of those women and her radiologist who say they have an important message all women need to hear.

Here is what the american cancer society now recommends for women at average risk of breast cancer.

First -- you have an option to start screening at 40.

Second -- there's a hard recommendation to screen annually starting at 45.

Then by age 55, you should screen every other year.

Self-exams are no longer necessary and they recommend doctors stop manual breast exams.

While this is the gist of the new guidelines, some doctors and patients alike say there's more to the story.

Lindsay Fryer’s story starts similar to most people who get unexpected news on an idle monday.

“I was active, healthy, normal 30 year old and one day just felt a lump in my breast,” Fryer says. “And that's when they said you know I think we need to biopsy this.”

Not a week had passed before she got a phone call.

“You have a very aggressive form of cancer and the only way to treat it is with chemo,” she recalls.

Although the lump was small, lindsay underwent radiation, chemo, even a double mastectomy, at 30, to get rid of the cancer.

“I lost my hair and my breasts and those two things are what define your femininity so for me my identity was gone,” said Fryer.

Not six months later, her mother was also diagnosed with a type of breast cancer.

“As a result of what my daughter was going through, then I ended up having to increase what I was doing on a yearly basis more,” said Ellen Goldstein, Fryer’s mother. “By the time they got to the mammogram for me is when they found out that I also had a problem going on.”

Following her daughter's example, she too, got a double mastectomy.

“It was not an easy time to have both things happening at the same time,” said Goldstein.

Ellen Goldstein says her surgery was the easy part, watching Lindsay fight cancer and her other daughter living now in cancer's shadows, was the hard part.

“It's very hard to watch, here's my daughter and now my other daughter having to face similar things-- it's not what I went through, it's what my girls are going through,” said Goldstein.

In younger women, like Lindsay, the cancer is often more aggressive.

Lindsay says this is one of the reasons she takes issue with the new American Cancer Society guidelines that give a hard recommend to screen later.

“The fact that they are moving it up, it's frightening because it's the younger women that need to be more in tune and more aware,” said Lindsay.

Dr. Lora Barke was Lindsay's radiologist.

She is the medical director at the Invision Sally Jobe, a center specializing in breast imaging.

Dr. Barke says breast cancer is one of the few diseases where patients have an option to choose prevention.

“It's one of the cancers we can screen for so it's such a shame people aren't taking advantage of that screening tool,” said Barke.

She says one of the reasons the a-c-s announced the less strict guidelines is because of the potential for mammograms to create false positives.

“They are saying that that is of potential harm to the patient because they had to come back for additional imaging,” said Barke. “Harm from a physiological perspective or emotional perspective?  Not at all, from an emotional perspective-- and potential cost perspective.”

Lindsay says she was not afraid of a false positive.

And while the study says women with a family history or who carry the 'breast cancer gene'  may need to screen earlier, Dr. Barke points to a startling statistic for people without a predisposition.

“75 percent of cancers are in patients who have no family history of breast cancer,” said Barke.

These women say they want to make their point known:  the risks of self-exams and mammograms are minimal... The benefits, often life saving.

“We are young, but we are not immune and it can happen. I’m proof that it can happen. Own your body, own your health and be your best advocate,” said Fryer.”

Because of the new guidelines-- you might notice your insurance plan changing.

Experts say they will take into account the updated recommendations when looking at their coverage policies.

Dr. Barkie says, bottom line-- there is no one size fits all approach. Everyone's risk is different.

She recommends going to a comprehensive breast center and talking to prevention specialists to determine what screening regimen is best for you.