The American College of Radiology (ACR), Society of Breast Imaging (SBI) and major medical organizations experienced in breast cancer care continue to recommend that women start getting annual mammograms at age 40. This approach saves many more lives than screening started at a later age or with less frequent exams. To mark National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, women are encouraged to ask their health care providers about scheduling an annual mammogram.
"All women age 40 and over can benefit from annual mammography. Risk-based screening is a poor approach. Seventy-five percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history or other factors that place them at high risk for the disease. I encourage women to speak with their providers about mammography benefits and limitations and create a schedule to get their annual mammograms," said Debra Monticciolo, MD, FACR, chair of the American College of Radiology Breast Imaging Commission.
Breast cancer remains the second leading cause of deaths among women in the United States. In 2015, according to the National Cancer Institute, 231,840 women will be diagnosed with the disease and 40,290 will die from it. Deaths are highest among women who are not screened regularly and have their cancers found at later stage.
"Mammography screening is not perfect but has been shown to markedly reduce the number of women each year who die from breast cancer," said Elizabeth Morris, MD, FACR, president of the Society of Breast Imaging. "The decision whether or not to get a mammogram remains with women. We want them to know that mammography can detect cancer early -- when it's most treatable and can be treated less invasively -- which not only saves lives but helps preserve quality of life."
The ACR and SBI believe women 40 and older should have access to mammograms and that Medicare and private insurers should be required to cover them for these exams.
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