Breast cancer is a major concern among women worldwide. Statistics show that one in eight women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. Recent studies, such as the one recently published in the Journal of Roentgenology, clearly reveals that screening with mammograms in women between the ages of 40 and 49 allows breast tumors to be caught at much earlier stages, thus, eliminating the need for chemotherapy and the associated risks chemotherapy introduces to the body.
If breast cancer is caught in the early stages when it is still confined to the breast, the five-year survival rate is 97 percent.
Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines
The 2009 breast cancer screening guidelines issued by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force were extremely controversial and promoted much confusion among women on when to initiate breast cancer screening. These guidelines stated that routine screenings for average-risk women should begin at age 50 instead of age 40 and that screenings should cease at age 74. In addition, these guidelines stated that screenings should be perform every two years instead of annually and that self-breast exams had little benefit.
The guidelines for breast cancer screenings from the American Cancer Society, the guidelines which are generally recognized by physicians, differ greatly from the guidelines stated from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
The American Cancer Society states that women should initiate screening mammograms beginning at age 40 and should continue on an annual basis for as long as the woman is in good health. In addition, women in their 20’s and 30’s should have a clinical breast exam as part of their routine health checkups every 3 years up to age 40 and then every year after the age of 40.
The guidelines do state that self-breast exams play a small role in detecting breast cancer, however, if an abnormality is suspected in a self-breast exam, a physician should be consulted immediately.
Most Recent Study Results
The study published in the Journal of Roentgenology in January 2014 confirmed the guidelines issued from the American Cancer Society. This study was performed by the researchers at University Hospitals Case Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and revealed that women who underwent screening with mammograms between the ages of 40 and 49 were diagnosed earlier, with smaller tumors, and many did not require chemotherapy.
The study compared two groups of women between the ages of 40 and 49. One group consisted of women of this age group simply obtaining a mammogram and a group of women with a symptom that required a diagnostic workup. The study consisted of a retrospective chart review of 230 women with primary breast cancer.
The study revealed that patients who underwent screening mammograms had major differences in respect to treatment regimen, stage of diagnosis, and identification of high risk tumors that the symptomatic group.
Dr. Michael Alboucrek, Chief of Breast Imaging and Intervention for SteleRAD, states that “Mammography guidelines issued from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in 2009 ignited a firestorm of controversy and conflicting studies leaving women confused about the scheduling and efficacy of screening mammography. We continue to diligently review studies regarding mammography guidelines to evaluate the most effective approach to increase early breast cancer detection and to decrease breast cancer deaths. At SteleRAD, we support current recommendations of most major medical organizations as well as the American Cancer Society to begin yearly screening at age 40 and earlier for women at high risk of developing breast cancer.”