You may have heard conflicting advice as to when and how often you should get a mammogram. Indisputably, mammography continues to be the best tool available to screen for breast cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death in women. Early detection through screenings, increased awareness and better treatment options have contributed to a 39 percent decrease of breast cancer-related deaths over the last 26 years. The question still remains, at what age should a woman begin the screening process?
Mammograms have the ability to find breast changes that could be cancerous years before physical symptoms become apparent. While statistics show mammograms save lives, the American Cancer Society introduced new breast cancer screening guidelines that push the recommended initial screening age to 45 years old instead of 40. The guidelines also state at age 55 women can start having mammograms every other year.
Lima Memorial, along with many organizations, including the American College of Radiology, the Society of Breast Imaging and American College of Gynecology, disagree with these revised guidelines and are speaking out. We believe breast cancer deaths are significantly reduced, and the most lives are saved when women begin their annual mammography screenings at age 40. We also advocate the benefit of saving lives far outweighs the potential risks of beginning annual screenings at age 40. Since 2015, Lima Memorial alone has diagnosed 17 women under the age of 45 with breast cancer and 153 women over the age of 55 were diagnosed. These women may not have benefitted from early detection if the ACS guidelines were followed. These professional groups continue to recommend the following:
• Women should have yearly mammograms starting at age 40 and continue for as long as she is in good health. The best method for early detection of breast cancer is a mammogram in conjunction with a physical examination.
• Beginning in their 20s, women should have clinical breast exams every three years until the age of 40, when they need to have yearly clinical exams, in addition to a mammogram.
• If a woman notices any change in how her breasts normally feel or look, she should contact her healthcare provider right away.
At Lima Memorial, we are committed to providing exceptional care to our patients and save the most lives possible by promoting early detection of breast cancer. I encourage you to discuss the benefits of early detection with your healthcare provider and to develop a screening plan that is right for you. Early detection saves lives.
Weyer is Medical Director, Women’s Imaging Services, Lima Memorial Women’s Health Center