October is here, and with it many pink-themed advertisements and events will meet us at every turn. While enjoying all of the events with friends and neighbors, it is important to reflect on why we devote an entire month to breast-cancer awareness and screening.As breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, nearly everyone knows someone who has been affected. Roughly one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. When caught early, before the disease is palpable, cure rates are very high and do not require chemotherapy or even a night in the hospital for most women. When the cancer is more advanced, or even physically palpable, treatment is still possible, but cure rates decline even with the use of chemotherapy. Screening mammography is proven the most effective method for finding early, more easily treated breast cancer.
Screening mammography uses very low-dose X-rays to find masses and distortion in the breast which can represent early breast cancer. Through years of testing and trials which together involved over one million women and spanned decades, screening mammography has been shown to save lives by detecting breast cancers when they are small and more easily treated. These trials have shown that screening mammography decreases the risk of dying from breast cancer by at least 30%. No other intervention even comes close to saving as many lives from breast cancer as screening mammography.
There are various guidelines suggesting when women should start screening and how often they should screen, but all medical groups agree that screening saves lives. Although the risk for breast cancer increases with age, younger women are at risk: One in six breast cancers occur in women age 40-49. Although any level of screening is better than none, it is estimated that screening every other year will miss up to 30% of cancers relative to annual screening. The American College of Radiology recommends an annual screening mammogram beginning at age 40, and these are the guidelines nearly all insurance companies follow. The majority of insurance plans will cover screening mammography due to its exceptional preventative health value.
As you enjoy all the events that October will bring, please remember: Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, and screening mammography is proven to be the most effective method for detecting cancer for early treatment. If you are a woman over the age of 40, be sure to schedule your mammogram and encourage your friends to do the same.
To schedule your mammogram at Island Hospital, call the Diagnostic Imaging Department at (360) 299-4288.