Despite recent controversy surrounding the United States Preventative Services Task Force’s (USPSTF) opinion that women should not receive mammograms until the age of 50, The American Cancer Society confirmed its recommendation earlier this week that women 40 and older should continue to receive the screening.
The Task Force based its decision upon its perception that screening 1,339 women in their fifties to save one life is worthwhile, while screening 1,904 women ages 40 to 49 to save one life is not.
The most current data shows that approximately 17% of breast cancer deaths occurred in women who were diagnosed in their 40s while approximately 22 % of breast cancer deaths occurred in women who were diagnosed in their 50s.
The Task Force acknowledges that screening women, whether in their 40s or their 50s, will reduce their risk of death by 15%. But because the actual number of women diagnosed in their 40s is lower, the task forces feels that the actual number of lives saved is not significant enough to recommend the screening.
The word mammogram already strikes fear in women nationwide. Encouraging women to obtain regular preventive care is difficult enough. The task force’s recent conclusion will likely make it more difficult for doctors, who feel that a routine mammogram is medically necessary, to encourage women to get an annual mammogram consistent with the American Cancer Society’s recommendation.
As mentioned in the video, the average cost of a mammogram is $125.00. While it is not cheap, when you look at the fact that routine screening can reduce your risk by 15% it is well worth the investment.
Only your doctor can advise you as to whether you should undergo regular mammograms.
Having a mammogram? The following tips generated by the American Cancer Society will help ensure that you have a good quality mammogram:
- If it is not posted in a place you can see it (often near the receptionist’s desk), ask to see the FDA certificate that is issued to all facilities that offer mammograms. The FDA requires all facilities to meet high professional standards of safety and quality in order to provide mammogram services. Facilities that are not certified may not provide mammogram services.
Use a facility that specializes in mammograms and does many mammograms a day.
If you are satisfied that the facility is of high quality, continue to go there on a regular basis so that your mammograms can be compared from year to year.
If you are going to a facility for the first time, bring a list of the places, dates of mammograms, biopsies, or other breast treatments you have had before.
If you have had mammograms at another facility, you should try to get those mammograms to bring with you to the new facility (or have them sent there) so that they can be compared to the new ones.
On the day of the exam, don’t wear deodorant or antiperspirant. Some of these have substances that can show up on the x-ray as white spots.
You may find it easier to wear a skirt or pants, so that you’ll only need to remove your top and bra for the mammogram.
If you are still having periods, try to avoid the week just before your period. Schedule your mammogram when your breasts are not tender or swollen to help reduce discomfort and get a good picture.
Always describe any breast symptoms or problems you are having to the technologist who is doing the mammogram. Be prepared to describe any related medical history such as surgeries, hormone use, and any breast cancer that you or a family member has had. Also talk to your doctor or nurse about any new findings or problems in your breasts before having the mammogram.
Before having any type of imaging test, tell your radiology technologist if you are breast-feeding or if you think you might be pregnant.
If you do not hear from your doctor within 10 days, do not assume that your mammogram was normal — call your doctor or the facility.
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