Save a Life … Tell Family and Friends To Get a Mammogram!
Recently, too many organizations are saying too many contradictory things about breast cancer screening. News stories, social media, and hearsay only add noise to the mix. All the confusion has left many women asking, “What age do I start to get my annual mammogram?”
“Our approach is to save the most lives possible. That is why we continue to recommend Coastal Bend women have yearly mammograms starting at age 40,” says Dr. Michael Michell, Chair of Radiology Associates’ Breast Imaging Team.
According to the National Cancer Institute, since mammography screening became widespread in the early 1990s, the U.S. breast cancer death rate — unchanged for the previous 50 years — decreased more than 30 percent. More supporting data agrees that the most lives are saved when women begin annual mammography screening at age 40.
Michell stresses screening mammograms apply to all women including those without a history of breast cancer.
“Unfortunately, seventy-five percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no special identifiable risk factors. By screening only women with risk factors, we will miss the vast majority of women who will develop breast cancer,” says Dr. Michell.
Michell acknowledges that anxiety over test results is real. Fortunately, most women simply need another mammogram or ultrasound exam to answer questions about their screening mammogram. A small number will need a benign breast biopsy (a minimally invasive needle biopsy) based on an abnormal screening and subsequent evaluation.
“However, most women would balk at comparing the anxiety of a call-back with that of dying from breast cancer,” states Michell of his patients.
Michell concludes, “So the best medicine remains utilizing mammography starting at age 40 to find cancer earlier when its most treatable and can be treated less invasively. This also helps preserve the quality of life.”
Why should you begin annual mammography screening at 40?
- The years of life lost to breast cancer are highest for women in their 40s.
- Breast cancer incidence increases substantially around age 40. The incidence rate for ages 40-44 is twice that for ages 35-39. In fact, one in six breast cancers occur in women aged 40-49.
- Forty percent of all the years of life saved by mammography are among women in their 40s.
- The largest and longest running breast cancer screening trials found that regular mammography screening cuts breast cancer deaths by roughly a third in all women ages 40 and over.
- Annual screening starting at age 40 saves approximately 6,500 more women’s lives each year in the U.S. than screening every other year starting at age 50.
- A recent study showed that more than 70 percent of the women who died from breast cancer in their 40s were among the 20 percent of women who were not being screened.
- Current science cannot determine which cancers will advance to kill a woman and which will not. Therefore all women 40 and older should be screened annually.
- Women experience short term anxiety regarding breast cancer screening test results but it rapidly declines over time and there is no measurable effect to their health. Additionally, nearly all women who experienced a false-positive exam support screening.
- Every major American medical organization with expertise in breast cancer care, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Cancer Society, American College of Radiology, National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers and Society of Breast Imaging agree that starting annual mammography at age 40 saves the most lives.