During the year 2013, the National Cancer Institute estimates that nearly 234,500 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States. Based on historical data, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that women receive mammograms every other year after they turn 50 to detect symptoms of breast cancer.
However, a new study conducted by researchers at Harvard University shows that nearly half of all women who experience mortality as a result of breast cancer are under the age of 50. This new finding has led medical experts to reconsider and reexamine their initial breast cancer screening recommendation.
For the study, Harvard researchers studied the medical records of 600 women who had died from breast cancer. The women had received their initial breast cancer diagnosis at some point between the years 1990 and 1999 and were followed until the year 2007. Approximately 71 percent of the women who had died had never received a mammogram prior to their breast cancer diagnosis.
In women between the ages of 50 and 74, studies have shown that one-third of all breast cancer cases may not need treatment at all, which has resulted in over a million women being treated unnecessarily for cancer that may not have adversely affected their lives. In younger women, the authors of the Harvard study say that the biological nature of breast cancer is generally more aggressive, and that women should start receiving mammograms as early as 40 years old.
Younger women typically have breast tissue that is denser in mass, which can often lead to difficulty with detecting symptoms of breast cancer during a mammogram. However, regular, frequent screenings can lead to earlier detection of breast cancer and, as a result, earlier treatment. Additionally, screening younger women for breast cancer may also help reduce the overall amount of false positive diagnoses in the U.S., which happens frequently in older women over the age of 50.
Shawnee Mission Medical Center provides female patients with the option to receive a mammogram, breast ultrasound, breast cancer risk assessment, and more. If you need a mammogram or have concerns about general women’s health matters, contact Shawnee Mission Medical Center today. Our Breast Center will provide you with the care and support you need from top-notch breast health specialists.