The medical community appears to be divided by a blurry line - a line between those who push for early and yearly cancer screening, and those who say that it does not work.
The confusion does not stop medical experts from releasing guidelines, however.
In fact, an updated set of breast cancer screening guidelines from an independent group of doctors in the United States recommends that 50- to 74-year-old women who are at an average risk for the illness should get mammograms every other year.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), which is supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has only re-affirmed its earlier recommendations in 2009.
However, the group's set of recommendations contradicts the guidelines from the American Cancer Society (ACS), which suggests that women should begin getting yearly mammograms at 45 years old and biennial mammograms at 55 years old.
It also contradicts the guidelines from the National Comprehensive Care Network (NCCN) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), which advises that women should start getting annual mammograms at 40 years old.
The Task Force did not push for frequent mammograms, but it did say that women and their doctors should make joint choices on how to proceed. They call this "risk-based screening," in which women should decide based on risk factors such as dense breast tissue and family history.
Examining their 2009 guidelines, the Task Force found that for women aged 40 to 74 years old, screening will reduce the chances of dying from breast cancer, with women aged 40 to 49 benefitting the least and women aged 60 to 69 benefitting the most.
The group also discovered that for every 10,000 women who go through mammography repeatedly for 10 years, four lives are saved among women aged 40 to 49; eight among women 50 to 59; 21 among women aged 60 to 69; and 13 among women aged 70 to 74.
Dr. Michael LeFevre, former chairman of the Task Force, said the findings support mammography as a vital tool in the fight against breast cancer.
"We believe the benefits increase with age," said LeFevre. "But there are harms, and particularly in their 40s, women have to make a decision for themselves."
Dr. Kirsten Bibbibs-Domingo, vice chair of the Task Force, said there are many similarities between the recommendations put forth by other groups and their final guidelines, such as the value of breast cancer screening for women in their 40s.
"Recognizing that there are modest differences, the Task Force is hopeful that its recommendations and the guidelines put forth by others will facilitate dialogue between women and their clinicians, and lead to additional research," she said.
Breast Cancer Symptoms
Before you go through a mammography, it is important if you are informed about the breast cancer symptoms you should watch out for.
A lump in the breast is typically associated with breast cancer, but experts say that most of the time, it isn't. According to reports, more than 90 percent of all breast lumps in women who are in their early 20s to early 50s are noncancerous and are due to hormonal changes or damaged fat tissue.
Although breast cancer doesn't typically show symptoms at early stage, a breast lump often prompts women and men to visit their doctor for check-ups. If no distinct lump is felt, experts at Cancer.org say that swelling of all or a certain part of the breast can be a possible symptom, too.
Experiencing breast pain is rarely the first noticeable symptom of the illness. Breast pain can be caused by other some birth control pills, a bra that doesn't fit, some infertility treatments, stress, fluctuating hormones caused by menstruation, breast cysts, or large breasts. The last one is accompanied by shoulder, neck or back pain, experts said.
Other symptoms of breast cancer include swelling around the arm or collarbone; breast pain that doesn't go away after your period; changes in the nipple shape; nipple discharge from one breast which is sometimes clear, brown, yellow or red; skin irritation, rash, itchiness, or unexplained redness; enlargement of one breast; dimpling of the breast surface; nipple retraction; unintentional weight loss; and many more.