Confused About Mammography Recommendations?

DrGrometBy Matthew Gromet, JD, MD, FACR
Chief of Mammography
Charlotte Radiology Breast Centers
Breast Imaging Specialist

 

The recent U.S. Preventive Services Task Force report has left many women confused about when they should get their mammogram. This report suggested that women in their 40’s may benefit less from mammography and that the risks might outweigh the benefits.

As breast imaging experts, we fully support the American Cancer Society (ACS), and many other organizations, which advise annual screening mammograms starting at age 40. Scientifically conducted clinical trials have proven that screening mammography has decreased mortality from breast cancer, including for women in their 40′s. In addition, at Charlotte Radiology Breast Centers we screen women from age 35 to 80 and above. Over 20% of the breast cancers we find from screening mammography are in women ages 40-49. Early detection through mammography often gives women more treatment options with reduced surgery, better cosmetic outcomes, and may eliminate the need for harsh chemotherapy.

The Task Force used a computer model and a statistical analysis, which included incomplete and outdated information to reach its conclusions. No new research was conducted and no breast cancer experts (e.g. no surgeons, radiologists, mammographers, oncologists) were involved. In contrast to the Task Force’s findings, multiple clinical studies in the United States and abroad have proven significant benefit to women over 40 who get mammograms. This is why most physicians in the field stand firm in their recommendations in the best interest of women’s health.

MammoRecsThe downsides of screening mammography are minimal. About 10% of women get called back for a few additional views or an ultrasound – additional steps to prove that everything is fine. If a biopsy is needed, today it’s generally only a needle biopsy, not surgery. Most biopsies are benign (not cancerous). Radiation used for mammography is very low dose, and there is no evidence that this level of exposure causes harm in women over 40. The amount of radiation is similar to the amount from an airplane flight of a few hours due to the thinner atmosphere—not something we typically worry about.

See graphic at right for some additional facts about screening mammography. You are encouraged to visit www.beatcancercr.com for more detailed information.

Breast cancer mortality rates are dropping as a direct result of screening mammography. Let’s continue this encouraging trend. Get your mammogram when you turn 40 and continue to have on an annual basis.

 

Posted in American Cancer Society, Breast Cancer Detection Guidelines, Screening Mammography


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