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More Women Are Getting Mammograms

U.S. Meets Mammogram Goal for Women Over 40; Some Groups Fall Short
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WebMD Health News

June 30, 2005 -- More women age 40 and older are getting mammograms.

So says a national health survey done in 2002. More than 93,000 women aged 40 and older took part. Seventy-six percent said they had had a mammogram in the past two years.

The figures exceed the 70% goal set by federal government officials for 2010.

Kirsten Barrett, PhD, and colleagues report the statistics in the American Journal of Health Behavior. Barrett is a senior research associate at the Center for Public Policy, Survey, and Evaluation Research Laboratory at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Checking for Breast Cancer

Mammograms are X-rays that image the breast. They're often used to help screen for breast cancer.

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among U.S. women, except for skin cancer. It's also the No. 2 cause of women's cancer deaths, says the American Cancer Society (ACS).

More than 211,000 U.S. women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, says the ACS.

Breast cancer death rates have been dropping. That's probably due to earlier detection and improved treatment, says the ACS.

Which Women Are Getting Mammograms

Women were most likely to have had a mammogram in the past two years if they had a personal doctor, health insurance, and higher incomes, say the researchers.

The youngest and oldest women -- those in their 40s and aged 70 or older -- were least likely to have had mammograms within the last two years.

Here are the percentages of each age group who had had mammograms in the last two years:

  • 40s: 70%
  • 50s: 81%
  • 60s: 81%
  • 70 and older: 76%

Black women topped the racial/ethnic group list:

  • Black: 78%
  • White: 77%
  • Hispanic or Latina: 71%
  • American Indian or Native Alaskan: 70%
  • Asian, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander: 68%

Room for Improvement

Overall, women over 40 are meeting the government's mammography goals, say the researchers.

However, they say goals are not being met for women without health insurance, personal doctors, and basic preventive care.

Mammography Recommendations

Mammography recommendations vary.

The ACS recommends annual screening mammograms for all women aged 40 and older who are in good health. The U.S. government recommends screening mammograms every one or two years for women aged 40 and older.

Younger women at high risk for breast cancer may want to discuss mammography with their doctors.

Key Tool for Breast Cancer Detection

Mammograms aren't perfect. They can miss some cancers. Women should be told about mammography's benefits, limits, and potential risks, says the ACS.

Still, the ACS and government officials agree that mammography is often crucial in finding breast cancer and saving lives. The screening technique can detect breast cancer at an early stage, when it is small and responsive to therapy.

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