According to breastcancer.org: “About 1 out of 8 U.S. women (about 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. In 2016, an estimated 246,660 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 61,000 new cases of the non-invasive (in situ) type.”
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and a great opportunity to remind our patients that screening is important in order to diagnose the cancer when it is still in its early stages, and thus easier to treat and cure. Women aged 40-74, and some older women who are healthy, are urged to get regular mammograms. Women with positive family histories of breast cancer in first degree relatives (mother, sister, or daughter) may need screening earlier and more frequently than what is recommended for the general population.
What are the risks associated with screening? The potential drawbacks are minimal, but include false positives, overdiagnosis and radiation exposure. False positives, which are more common in women under 50, can cause you to have painful tests such as biopsies, and can cause undo stress and anxiety. While screening mammograms aren’t perfect, early detection is still crucial to treating the cancer. As for radiation, the exposure from the procedure is small, and the number of lives saved by finding cancer early outweighs the very small risks that come with radiation exposure.
Breast Cancer Screening Recommendations
The recommendations for frequency of breast cancer screening vary, but many experts recommend mammograms every two years for women from age 40 to 50 or 55, and annually thereafter until about age 74. The schedule for screening may be different for women who are at very high risk of breast cancer.
Routine mammograms save lives. As always, it is important to consult with your physician to make a plan for breast cancer screening that is personalized for you. October 21 is National Mammography Day, and a good reminder to schedule an appointment if you are due for a screening.
Pam Hall, MD, Your Local Board Certified Emergency Room Physician
Hospitality Health ER Longview & Tyler Texas