When should women get mammograms?
By Katrina Burton
MD Anderson is standing by a recommendation that women 40 years old and older receive annual mammograms, despite a recent study that raised
controversy regarding breast
“We are not recommending that women
change their screening practices,” says Therese Bevers, M.D., medical director
of MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center. “We stand by our guidelines that
recommend women have annual mammograms beginning at age 40 and continue to be
screened as long as they are in good health.”
But a study by the Canadian National
Breast Screening says annual mammography in women ages 40-59 does not
reduce mortality from breast cancer and mammography screening should be
The results of the study, published in the
BMJ Journal on Feb. 11, are in
direct contrast to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation
that women should begin annual mammograms
starting at age 50, and of guidelines by MD Anderson, the American Cancer
Society and others that call for annual breast cancer screening to begin at age
don’t agree with the results,” says Bevers. “There were limitations in the
study that skewed the results.”
The study followed almost 90,000 women between
1980 and 2005 in six different Canadian screening facilities to understand if
there were benefits to mammography screening.
Bevers says another problem with the
study was the quality of the mammogram. Twenty-five years ago, mammograms were
done by film, making it harder to see the cancer. With today’s technology, digital
screening helps detect small cancers in the earliest treatable stages.
Bevers is concerned that women will
become discouraged from getting mammograms.
“The reality is that early detection of
breast cancer improves the odds of successful treatment,” says Bevers.
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