Did you know that in 2009 the U.S. Preventative Service Task Force recommended that women don’t need mammograms between the ages of 40 and 49, that women should start mammograms every 1-2 years at 50 and that mammograms could stop at 74 years? Most major associations, imaging centers and health care providers disagreed with this recommendation. In the February 2011 issue of American Journal of Radiology, researchers found that starting screening at a younger age than 50 and at more frequent intervals can save more lives.
This news is huge!
Specifically, starting mammograms at 40 years old can significantly reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer by 71 percent. The original report felt that there were too many false positives causing undue stress to women needing additional imaging.
As the report quoted, "You can't really compare having a call back for additional testing to dying of breast cancer.”
Many women are concerned about radiation exposure or feel that they are in-tune with their body enough to know when cells are changing, however breast cancer caught in a low stage (like stage I) has a 95 percent survival rate which may not be palpable due to its small size. Also, in my practice I have found breast cancer in women under the age of 50 more often than in women older than 50.
It’s really important that you keep up with your monthly self-breast exams. Make sure you examine yourself around the same time every month so you’re aware of abnormal changes that happen (as opposed to changes brought on by your menstrual cycle). Schedule your yearly exam with your health care provider as well as your yearly mammogram. Make note – if you notice anything strange such as lumps or bumps, nipple changes, pain that isn’t cyclical, lymph nodes in your armpit, skin changes or puckering or just feel like something is different, have it checked out right away.