Most women are not doing everything they can to find breast cancer early — when survival rates may top 98 percent. And despite the fact that widespread use of screening mammograms has increased the number of breast cancers found before they cause any symptoms, many women in the U.S. over age 40 have not had a mammogram in the past 12 months.
It’s true most women have their first mammogram at age 40, but few continue to have one yearly. Therein lies the problem. Studies show women who skip yearly mammograms have diminished survival rates if they are diagnosed with breast cancer. By the time a lump is felt by hand or other symptoms of breast cancer appear, the cancer may be large, at an advanced stage or difficult to treat.
Another reason to continue having a mammogram is increasing age. At age 40, 1 out of 257 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. By age 50, the number increases to 1 out of 67. And, by age 70, it’s 1 in 28. Another way to drive this point home is the fact that 94 percent of new cases of breast cancer occur in women over age 40. As a result, the American Cancer Society recommends:
- Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (X-rays of the breast) if they wish to do so.
- Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
- Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or can continue yearly screening.
- Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.
Consider this an important reminder with life-saving potential. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, yet there are more than 2.6 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
Sources: Cancer.gov, Cancer.org