Mammogram Myth #3: There’s no reason to get a mammogram screening each year
While the prevalence of the “pink ribbon” in today’s society has made more people aware of breast cancer than perhaps at any time in our history, the fact is that there are still far too many conflicting opinions and recommendations regarding when and how often a woman should get her annual mammogram screening. Even women who do their homework by talking to their physician or doing research online would be hard pressed to find a single, consistent message around mammography screening. For this reason, we at Solis Mammography work hard to educate and advocate for women’s breast health – such that women make the right (and informed) decision for them personally.
Fact: A woman’s breasts are always changing. Breastfeeding, hormone fluctuations, menstrual cycles and menopause, all affect women’s bodies and their breast health. As we age, we need to be aware of all the ways in which preventative health can help us maintain optimal health and wellness. Annual screening mammography should be part of every woman’s annual wellness regime – just like getting her blood pressure, cholesterol, and eyes checked each year.
Fact: According to guidelines released this month by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women in the United States and is the second leading cause of cancer death in American women. Time and again, physician-led research has shown that regular screening mammography starting at age 40 years reduces breast cancer mortality in average-risk women.
Fact: While reducing mortality is clearly our highest priority in preserving women’s health, so too is our responsibility to help women preserve their quality of life. In getting screened every year, a woman ensures that if and when any anomaly in her breast tissue appears, she’s able to find it as early as possible – making her options as easy as possible. This might include eliminating the expense, stress, and physical toll associated with late stage diagnosis.
Fact: Breast cancer risk assessment is essential for helping women understand their unique risk – which may be based on factors such as personal health history, family history, and/or her genetics. Annual screening and early detection allow for assessment and identification of women at high risk at the earliest stage possible – thus offering the greatest opportunities for rapid treatment and recovery. Women should know, or ask about, the risk factors for breast cancer so they can have a better understanding of where they fall on the risk spectrum.
Fact: While some organizations have suggested that mammography can be postponed until age 45 or even 50, the fact remains that of all breast cancer diagnoses in the U.S. in 2015, twenty percent were to women in their 40s. According to Dr. Stephen Rose, Chief Medical Officer for Solis Mammography, “Women in their 40s have the most to gain from annual screening mammography. I have already begun to see more of this particular age group presenting with advanced breast cancer. Recommendations which suggest ignoring or delaying screening for five to ten critical years are just irresponsible.”
Fact: And finally, for those who argue that “overtreatment of small cancers” is the issue, we encourage women to understand that treatment is an option – knowledge should not be. With advances in medical and clinical protocols, it is true that women can be successfully treated with less invasive options. And in some cases, they may opt not to treat at all. These are discussions a woman should have with her doctor AFTER getting all the facts. Avoiding screening (and therefore finding any potential health issue) is not a sustainable or intelligent solution.