by: Robin Kovachy, MD, Breast Cancer Specialist
Women want to protect their breast health, for themselves and their loved ones. Recent headlines have brought renewed attention to breast cancer screenings. But headlines and sound bites don’t tell the whole story. A magnitude of mammography’s benefit varies with numerous factors, such as the relationship between the “menopausal status” and “the screening” interval.
As various organizations analyze cancer screening through the prism of cost-benefit analysis, the healthcare landscape is changing dramatically. The facts on breast cancer, however, remain the same. Here’s what we know:
- 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime.
- 1 in 6 breast cancers occur in women in their forties.
- 3 of 4 women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease.
Since screening mammography became widespread in 1990, breast cancer screening deaths have been reduced by more than 30 percent. We also know that when breast cancer is detected early, the patient has a five-year survival rate of greater than 95 percent as well as options for less aggressive treatment. That’s why the American College of Radiology (ACR), Society of Breast Imaging (SBI) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) as well as local breast-cancer oncologists, surgeons, radiologists, OBGYN’s and others who specialize in treating women overwhelmingly support annual screening mammograms beginning at age 40. In a departure from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) draft recommendations, which discount the benefit of mammography in women under 50, the American Cancer Society supports the option of beginning breast cancer screening at 40. Using slightly outdated data, the USPSTF has determined that the number of women who get breast cancer in their forties and after 74 is not statistically significant. Local breast-health experts strongly feel that if adopted nationally, the USPSTF guidelines would result in missed diagnoses among younger women and more advanced cancers at all ages. Annual mammograms starting at age 40 can prolong not only the number of years women live, but the quality of those years.
For more information, please visit MammographySavesLives.org
Oeffinger KC, Fontham ETH, Etziono R, et al. Breast cancer screening for women at average risk. JAMA. 2015 Oct 20;314(15)1599-1614
Dr. Robin Kovachy is a medical oncologist with Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers. She is double board certified in medical oncology and internal medicine. She specializes in breast cancer, where she has been sharing her experience for more than 32 years. Dr. Kovachy has received the Patients Choice Award (2008-2012) and the Compassionate Doctor Recognition (2010-2012).