Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Women's Health

Font Size

Breast Cancer Deaths in Younger, Unscreened Women

Mammograms should begin at age 40, researcher says

continued...

Overall, the study also showed an increase in breast cancer survival coinciding with the emergence of mammography. Half of women diagnosed with breast cancer in 1969 died within 13 years after diagnosis, compared to about 9 percent of those diagnosed between 1990 and 1999 who were included in this study.

Although some experts have credited the decline in breast cancer death rates to improved treatments, the study shows that's not the whole story, Monsees said. "This paper shows the decline is primarily due to earlier detection and better screening," she said.

Frequent screening is even more important in younger women than in older woman, she added. Tumors in older women typically grow slower than in younger women.

The bottom line: "Screening doesn't reduce the risk of getting breast cancer, but it does reduce the risk of dying from it," Monsees said.

Robert Smith, director of screening for the American Cancer Society, offered this perspective: "Regular screening was associated with a much, much lower likelihood of dying [from breast cancer]," compared to no screening or long-ago screening.

One-third of deaths among those who did get screened regularly were attributed to "interval cancers," those detected in between the mammograms done every two years. Although this shows that getting regular mammograms doesn't entirely eliminate the risk of dying from breast cancer, Smith said, "the message here is that mammography is a good part of your prevention plan."

If the cancer is detected early, options for breast-conserving surgery are greater and the risk of dying from the cancer is reduced, he said.

1|2

Today on WebMD

woman looking in mirror
Article
Woman resting on fitness ball
Evaluator
 
woman collapsed over laundry
Quiz
Public restroom door sign
Slideshow
 
Couple with troubles
Article
Bone density illustration
VIDEO
 
Young woman being vaccinated
Slideshow
woman holding hand to ear
Slideshow
 
Blood pressure check
Slideshow
mother and daughter talking
Evaluator
 
intimate couple
Article
puppy eating
Slideshow