Mammography is the process of using low-energy-X-rays to examine the human breast and is used as a diagnostic and a screening tool. Mammography is a good tool for the early detection of breast cancer, typically through detection of characteristic masses and/or micro-calcifications. Most doctors believe that mammography reduces deaths from breast cancer due to early detection.
Like all x-rays, mammograms use doses of ionizing radiation to create images. Radiologists then analyze the image for any abnormal findings. It is recommended that women, with no risk factors, have screening mammographies done in every 2 years between age 50 and 74.
Mammograms should begin at age 40
Dr. Jamie Caughran, Medical Director of the Comprehensive Breast Center at the Lacks Cancer Center in Grand Rapids, MI, who led the research team for a recent study on mammography concluded that women age 40 and up should use the method for early detection. High-risk patients should seek advice from their doctors about the age for and frequency of tests.
He said “While there has been ongoing debate about when and how breast cancer screening should occur, this study validates that women who undergo regular mammography screening present at earlier stages and often require less aggressive treatment than those who do not.”
This study was completed this year with data from nearly 6,000 women with...
breast cancer and counters guidelines by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, which recommends that women get mammograms every two years beginning at age 50.
It was found that:
- For women diagnosed with breast cancer before age 50, 49% of the cases were detected by mammogram. Of those, 18% were Stage 2, and 4% were Stage 3.
- For women diagnosed with breast cancer before age 50, 46% of the cases were detected by feel. Of those, 50% were Stage 2, and 17% were Stage 3.
Mammography and its utility in detection of breast cancer has been a topic of debate, especially for women with age 40 and above. U.S. Preventative Services Task Force was criticized last year for bumping the recommended age for regular mammography check > 50. As more scientific data is available with improved imaging technologies may be it is time to reconsider the check up for women with age >40.