New ACS Mammogram Guidelines Spark Controversy

ABC's Amy Robach offers a deeply personal look at the announcement that has many women up in arms.
7:00 | 10/23/15

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Transcript for New ACS Mammogram Guidelines Spark Controversy
We turn now to a major shift in how and when we look for breast cancer. A big announcement from the American cancer society instantly met with criticism, even outrage, from women who say they owe their lives to early detection. One of those women, our own "Good morning America" coanchor, Amy robach. I'd be dead if I hadn't done that breast exam. Reporter: Jerilynn Lucas 21 years ago, diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer at 27 years old with no prior family history. I found a lump. I didn't realize that breast cancer could happen to a woman in her 20s. I thought a woman had to be 40 to get breast cancer. Reporter: She underwent a single mastectomy and extensive chemotherapy. She's been in remission since. Lucas argues early detection was the key to saving her life. But just this week, the American cancer society making waves after they release new guidelines stating that women with an average risk of breast cancer can delay having a mammogram until the age of 45, five years later than its previous recommendation of 40, a message that outrages Lucas. I think this is such a disservice, adding to the confusion of when to get screened, when to get checked. I feel like we've made so much progress in genetics, in research in treatment. Why are we going backwards? Reporter: The American cancer society says the new guidelines are based in evidence that mammography screening harps can include the risk of false positives in younger women. There's a changing risk as you get older. These guidelines have given a roadmap that a woman can follow throughout her life span. Begin the discussion at 40. But if you haven't started by 45, everyone should begin screening. That's really the key take-home message. There is a chance, small though it is, that a woman could die because she did not begin screening earlier. Reporter: It's that chance that is leading the experts at memorial clone Kettering cancer center to not follow the acs' new recommendations. The goal is not to decrease false positives, to decrease biopsies. The goal is to decrease deaths. That's why I think we are sticking with our guidelines, and that's why it concerns me that the American cancer society has changed theirs. Having a mammogram once a year, starting at age 40, is the best way we know of to decrease deaths from breast cancer in this country. Reporter: Radiologist Dr. Carol lee says that the guidelines could lead to confusion among patients and that the consequences could be dire. What I don't want to see is a reversal, going backwards, seeing more deaths from breast cancer because fewer women get screened because they're confused about whether they need to have a mammogram. Reporter: Dr. Wender says no matter a woman's age she should still be mindful about your breasts. Your risk of breast cancer starts even earlier than 30. So we encourage all women to be aware of what their breasts feel like and not to delay if they find something that they think might be a change. Even if they're not sure. Bring that to the attention of a clinician. Reporter: There are questions like, will insurance companies continue to cover mammograms for women under the age of 45? Cigna health insurance in a statement to ABC news saying, Cigna's breast cancer screening policy is 100% coverage for women age 40 and older. We have no plans to change our policy." My mastectomy, the day after my 20th birthday, realizing I would come out and there would be a chunk of myself -- I hadn't had any surgery, I didn't know what to do. Reporter: Today Lucas is joined by a group of women -- My daughter Wendy had breast cancer. She passed away in 2009. I say this is the face of young breast cancer. Reporter: Their stories hit close to home for me. Now to a very, very brave moment, our dear colleague Amy robach, she's one of the new staffers having a mammogram. Reporter: In an effort to demystify the process of breast cancer screening, I was asked to have my first mammogram live on ABC. We're hearing the word stronger and you are being so strong today, Amy row back. You're going to live have a mammogram. Reporter: My reaction was visceral. No way, no how. She called me and said, them me to do a mammogram live on TV. And I said, I don't think that's a good idea. It seems exploitive. You have no connection to cancer. It didn't seem authentic. Reporter: The truth is I feared it would look like I was trying to grab the limelight. Million my dear friend robin Roberts said the words I needed to hear. 85% of women who have breast cancer have no family history. That statistic sent a wave from my head to my toes. I went in to see robin, who is a breast cancer survivor and thriver, and she said, you know what, Amy? If one life is saved because of early detection, it's all worth it. Reporter: I was 40 years old at the time. With no prior history of breast cancer in my family. And a life busy with work and kids. I had been putting it off for a year. I finally said yes. Amy is wrapping up her first mammogram here in the Mammo van. Reporter: Little did I know that mammogram would change the course of my life. A few days later I received a call. Doctors wanted to do more tests. And later, a sonogram. It was there. A dark spot on the screen. A tumor about the size of a marble growing inside me. Those moments alone, scared in the doctor's office, detailed in my memoir "Better." I wanted to stay positive so I kept telling myself that this was why some people argued against 40-year-olds getting mammograms. Competitive testing, false Readings, unnecessary anxiety. It has to be benign. They immediately performed a biopsy. There was no escaping my new unreality. I had cancer. I will remember that phone call for the rest of my life. I knew it was bad news. Then she said, they found a tumor, and it's malignant. I have decided to have a bilateral mastectomy. I'm going to be very aggressive. I'm 40 years old, I'm young, I have a lot of life ahead of me. Reporter: The prognosis was chemotherapy, eight rounds over six months. April 24th marked my final day of chemo. Today I have made it my mission to raise awareness for early detection. It's a calling that Geralyn Lucas shares. She's the mother of two and author of a second book called "Then came life: A warrior in the fight against breast cancer." I'm the lucky one. I have a 16-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son. They were born in the same hospital where I had my mastectomy. And I have a life now. I'm the lucky one. Reporter: For "Nightline," I'm Amy robach in New York.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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