It's not your favorite date, but you've got to do it get a yearly mammogram
after age 40. If something is wrong, you'll be glad you did. If things are
fine, you've got peace of mind. On National Mammogram Day, encourage a friend
or sister, too.
Fewer women are dying from breast cancer, mostly due to
early detection. In the past 10 years, the number of deaths has declined by
24%, reports Carol Lee, chairwoman of the Commission on Breast Imaging for the
American College of Radiology, and professor of diagnostic radiology at Yale
University School of Medicine.
Breast cancer is most treatable in the early stages. That's
why the American Cancer Society advises monthly self-exams, annual checkups
with a doctor, and yearly mammograms. Women at high risk should get an MRI
and a mammogram every year beginning at age 30 or at whatever age she and her
doctor agree upon.
The problem with MRI is that it is a more sensitive test than a mammogram,
studies have shown. MRI finds a lot of suspicious spots that turn out not to be
breast cancer what's known as false-positives. However, for women whose family
history or genetic inheritance puts them at very high risk for breast cancer,
MRI findings can turn out to be cancer.
Advances in Mammogram Screening
Just as digital cameras have changed photographs, so digital mammography has improved breast imaging. Digital allows
computer enhancements that provide a better, clearer picture of breast tissue
which helps doctors detect many more cancers at an early stage.
One study of 42,760 women compared results from digital mammograms and
traditional film mammograms one year afterward. Digital mammography was better
at finding cancers in women under age 50, in women with dense breasts, and in
pre- and peri-menopausal women but not for post-menopausal women, who have the
highest rate of breast cancer.
Computer-aided detection (CAD) is a form of computer imaging that uses
information stored in a database to highlight areas on any breast image that
may require a second look. CAD can be used with both standard and digital
However, one study of 222,135 women at 43 screening centers found that CAD
did not result in significant improvements in cancer detection rates. It did
increase the number of false-positive mammograms, resulting in significantly
more patient callbacks and unnecessary biopsies.
These extra imaging techniques are not meant to replace mammography. They
act as extra tools for women at increased risk to help avoid unnecessary
biopsies, says Lee.