Mammogram Guidelines: What are they and should I follow them?
There are varying answers to this question—but it's important. Screening and early detection can stop this disease early. It seems more and more women are being affected by breast cancer and this is a battle we must win—so read on!
A comprehensive analysis was performed that reviewed all the available data and it showed that there was only minimal benefit to yearly screening... basically that for every 1,900 women between age 40 and 50 that are screened yearly with mammography, one death is prevented in the next two decades. Five women would have died regardless of the screenings, thus preventing one in six deaths.
There can be overdiagnosis with screening; estimates show that approximately 30 percent of tumors diagnosed with mammography are benign or untreatable. Researchers feel that a false mammogram leads to biopsies or surgeries for tissue diagnosis that may put women at risk for surgical complications, let alone the anxiety.
The radiation from a mammogram is real but small over time. It is often stated as a reason to avoid early screening due to lifetime exposure. Also newer tests are on the way such as thermography, MRI or screening ultrasound. These may prove to be better and more sensitive specific to malignant cancers.
The American Cancer Society does not agree with the USPSTF. The ACS recommends that women age 40 and older "have a screening mammogram every year and should keep on doing so for as long as they are in good health."
The bottom line is that screening is a good thing and should be done. I would advise if you have a family history that you begin screening before the age of 40 to obtain baseline mammograms. Know your normal and keep a record of your results. I personally screen annually—I may be old school. There will be more data soon and possibly the second round of recommendations may convince me otherwise.
For those of you that are at low risk, talk with your doctor about your personal screening recommendations and any useful blood tests that may be appropriate for you.
Keep all your medical results scanned in a folder in your computer, and you can request a copy of your images, as well. Though the hospital should have them archived—they are yours.
How to beat cancer? Well, it's living a healthy lifestyle as best as possible. Nutrition and exercise have shown time and time again to be linked to rates of lower cancer development. Ask your doctor at your annual visit what is the best screening time and test for you. When in doubt—screen!