Importance of Mammogram Screenings
By Priya Kumaraguru, M.D.
Family Practice Physician
Saint Anthony's Physician Group
Many physicians, along with the American Cancer Society, the American College of Radiology and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists continue to recommend annual mammography screening starting at age 40, despite recommendations by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in 2009 to change screening recommendations to age 50-74 and only every other year.
Mammography screening has produced decreases in breast cancer mortality. Women in their 40s and 50s screened yearly were 15 percent less likely to die of breast cancer than women not screened, according to a study published in an issue of Annals of Internal Medicine [November, 2009]. But unfortunately, even the most diligent screening does not guarantee protection from an aggressive, life-threatening cancer.
As an individual, you have the right to consider: am I one of the small number of women whose life could be saved by annual screening starting at age 40? If you decide you are more worried about your risks of getting cancer than the risks of false positives, additional procedures, anxiety and possible over-treatment, then it’s unlikely your doctor would advise against the screening schedule that you desire.
Early stage breast cancer is most often detected by a mammogram screening and according to the American Cancer Society, breast cancers that are found because they are causing symptoms tend to be larger and are more likely to have already spread beyond the breast. In contrast, breast cancers found during screening exams are more likely to be smaller and still confined to the breast. The size of a breast cancer and how far it has spread are some of the most important factors in predicting the prognosis (outlook) of a woman with this disease.
As women take more preventive action in their health – especially against a cancer that kills about 40,000 American women every year – they accept mammograms as a good preventive tool.
New digital mammography at Saint Anthony’s Women’s Imaging Center offers many conveniences – from very soft and slow application of breast compression for smooth positioning and increased patient tolerance, to having the digital images immediately available. Because digital mammography is faster, the time women spend in an uncomfortable position is greatly reduced.
And in Illinois, women are able to self-refer for their mammograms as well – meaning a physician referral is not required.
To make an appointment for a mammogram, call Saint Anthony’s scheduling representatives at 618-474-6152. Saturday and evening appointments are available.