By Matthew Gromet, J.D., M.D., F.A.C.R.
Chief of Mammography at 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, and many other organizations, which advise annual screening mammograms starting at 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 35 to over 80. Over 20% of the breast cancers we find from screening mammography are in women age 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The Task Force used a computer model and a statistical analysis which included incomplete and outdated information to reach its conclusions.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 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.
The 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, it’s generally only a needle biopsy today, not surgery. Most biopsies are benign (not cancer). Radiation used for mammography is very low dose, and there is no evidence that this level of exposure causes harm. 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.
Here are additional some facts about screening mammography. Please visit Charlotte Radiology for more detailed information.
• Screening Mammography is the major reason that U.S. breast cancer mortality has reduced by 30% since 1990. Similar mortality reduction has also been shown in many international clinical studies.
• 75-80% of women with breast cancer have NO family history.
• Breast Cancers detected in women under 50 are often more aggressive cancers – making early detection by annual screening mammography even more important.
• The two biggest risk factors for breast cancer are being a woman and growing older.
• Mammography is a low-cost and safe tool for breast cancer screening, with the amount of radiation exposure comparable to flying across the country.
Breast cancer mortality rates are dropping due to screening mammography. Let’s continue this encouraging trend. Get your mammogram when you’re 40, and continue having them annually.
Smarties, don’t forget to send an ecard to your friends to schedule their annual mammogram too – girlfriends have to watch out for each other!
Don’t forget to register for our Giveaway this week:
Time Warner Cable Arena Presents (2) Family-4-packs to the Harlem
Globetrotters on Saturday, March 20th at 7p. Click here to enter, one entry per person. Good luck, Smarties!