Breast Cancer Awareness

Amanda FloecknerHealthy Living

Yearly mammograms after age 40 still recommended

Breast cancer remains the second most common cancer among women and the second leading cause of cancer death. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that one in eight women will develop the disease in her lifetime. As advanced technologies, new treatments and low-cost preventive screenings expand, there are reasons to be optimistic that not only will death rates continue to drop, but those with the disease will live longer and better lives.

Healthcare professionals agree that early detection of breast cancer plays a major role in saving lives, and the Merle Cancer Care Center at Island Hospital and many other local providers continue to follow national guidelines approved by the ACS and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network:

• Beginning at age 40, women should get an annual screening mammogram
• Beginning at age 20, they should conduct a monthly breast self-exam
• Beginning at age 20, they should have a clinical breast examination by a medical professional at least every three years and annually after age 40

Three years ago a panel of independent experts urged women not to begin regular mammograms until age 50 and at two-year intervals after that. Self-exams, which have long been advocated by healthcare professionals, were discarded by the panel as useless. The rationale for these new guidelines was to avoid unnecessary tests, too-frequent screenings and needless false alarms. However, these have been universally criticized by doctors, cancer-care and prevention organizations and the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The new guidelines left many women confused, but today the case for early detection has been firmly and convincingly made. Studies plainly show that patients who have been diagnosed before symptoms appear have the best chance of being cured of their disease.

To schedule your mammogram, call (360) 299-1315.