Medically reviewed by
Dr. Noel Phipps
Carolina Radiology Associates
Mammograms don’t prevent cancer and they have their limitations. Yet, mammograms are the most effective way available to screen women for breast cancer.
“Studies show that regular mammograms lower a woman of 50’s risk of dying by 35%,” says McLeod Radiologist Dr. Noel Phipps. “Screening mammograms are an essential part of the overall process of discovering and treating breast cancer, along with a woman’s self-exam and a physician’s clinical exam.”
THE DEBATE OVER “HOW OFTEN?”
For years, the standard was: Starting at age 40 women should get an annual mammogram. In 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force questioned the value of annual mammograms and said women with average risk should get a mammogram every 2 years, starting at age 50.
It didn’t take long for the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Radiology, American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute and National Comprehensive Cancer Network to ALL issue guidelines reinforcing the need for an annual mammogram starting at age 40 and to continue as long as the woman is in good health.
Women in their 20s and 30s should have their personal physician perform a clinical breast exam as part of a regular health exam every 3 years.
SCREENING MAMMOGRAM vs. DIAGNOSTIC MAMMOGRAM
Women, who don’t have any symptoms, receive a screening mammogram to look for breast cancer.
If there is evidence of a tumor or cancer (a breast lump or discharge from a nipple), a diagnostic mammogram may be taken of the area where the tumor was spotted. Additionally, ultrasound or MRI can be used to better determine the location and extent of the breast cancer.
LIMITATIONS OF MAMMOGRAMS
As good as they are in detecting breast cancer, mammograms can still miss about 20% of the tumors. These “false negatives” (failing to spot existing tumor) can be the result of very dense breasts, found more often in young women than older females.
A “false positive” (indicating a tumor where there is NOT one) is also more common among young women with dense breasts. Over a 10-year period, about half the women getting annual mammograms will have a false positive result. These women may need additional mammograms, ultrasounds, MRIs or possibly a biopsy.
HIGH RISK WOMEN
Women, who are considered “at high risk” for breast cancer, should have both a mammogram AND an MRI every year. Women in this group include:
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE
There is no better time than today to schedule your annual 3D Mammogram. To schedule your mammogram at McLeod Health in Florence, Cheraw, Clarendon, Dillon, Loris, or North Myrtle Beach, call 843-777-2095.
Have a question for a Cancer Specialist? Click here.
Sources include: McLeod Health, American Cancer Society, National Breast Cancer Foundation, US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention