Your Best Breast Cancer Screening Today
Here are three tests every woman should have.
Mammography: Still the Gold Standard continued...
This recent reaffirmation of mammograms has yielded the
American Cancer Society and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
recommend that all women get a mammogram every year beginning at age 40.
The National Cancer Institute advocates screening every one to two
years for women 40 years and older. Women with higher than average risk of
getting breast cancer are also encouraged to ask their doctors if they should
start screening at an earlier age, and how often they should have it done.
- The US Preventive Services Task Force advises women 40 and older to
get a mammogram, with or without a breast examination performed by a doctor,
every one to two years.
There is an 85% chance that a mammogram will find breast
cancer, says Saslow, noting the percentage is significant, even if it's not
100%. A perfect test, she remarks, is not realistic at this time.
Most medical professionals stand by mammography, even with the
hazards that come with using it. The device can wrongly highlight something as
malignant when it is not. And it can fail to detect a true cancer. But its
success rate outweighs those drawbacks, experts say.
"There are risks to most screening methods," reminds
Helen Meissner, PhD, chief of National Cancer Institute's Applied Cancer
Screening Research Branch.
New Policy on Breast Self Exams
The risks to inspecting your own breasts are similar to the
hazards of the mammogram, in that you can miss a true cancer, or mistakenly
pinpoint something as a concern. However, doctors have still advised female
patients to perform a breast self exam every month.
Leading health groups used to give a strong recommendation for
such monthly tests, but after reviewing the studies on screening, they
determined there isn't enough evidence to advocate or reject the method.
"The recommendation (for the breast self exam) was never
based on evidence," says Saslow, because there is not enough available data
on the value of the technique. "It's enough to show that any effectiveness
would be extremely small."
Therefore, the US Preventive Services Task Force recommends
neither for nor against teaching or performing routine breast self examination.
The National Cancer Institute has adopted the same policy.