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Controversy Over Breast Cancer Screening – Age 40, 45, 50 & How Often?

Controversy Over Breast Cancer Screening – Age 40, 45, 50 & How Often?
April 21
15:04 2017

My wife and I have a joke between us where we refer to breast screening as ‘breast screaming’ due to the way many mammogram machines squish the breasts in the screening process. She always complains that it’s not only painful to undergo the screening but her breasts are sore for day or two afterwards.

Regardless of how uncomfortable a mammogram can be, it’s no reason to avoid regular breast cancer screening. Breast cancer is the leading cancer in women, worldwide. In the United States, cancer in general is the second leading cause of death in women. Breaking that down, lung and bronchus cancer accounts for around 72,160 deaths a year and breast cancer is second, accounting for around 40,450 deaths a year.

However there still seems to be conflicting reports about when and how often a woman should start and get breast cancer screening. If you asked a dozen doctors, you may be surprised to hear a number of different recommendations.

The Breast Cancer Social Networks requested information from more than 800 doctors throughout the country:

“Of the doctors who responded, 81 percent recommended mammograms during ages 40—44, 88 percent during ages 45—49, and 67 percent after age 75. Clearly, doctors support breast cancer screening, but not all recommend them as early as 40.”

So why the number of varying opinions from the very doctors you trust with your health?

One reason given by some doctors to avoid breast cancer screening too early is the problems associated with over-diagnosis. It’s not uncommon for mammograms of younger women (30-50) to detect abnormalities that may be nothing at all. This leads doctors to ordering more tests, often a biopsy, which naturally causes many women to worry and get over stressed with the thought they may have breast cancer. Additional unnecessary tests can also cost lots of money, which many women do not want to spend.

On the other side of the argument, some doctors say that earlier screening is necessary so as to establish a base line and to help detect any cancer early when it is easily treatable. Some say that there is no real evidence yet to support the concept that early and younger screening increases survival rates:

“For example, one Canadian study showed a 22 percent over-diagnosis of cancer and little improved survival rates due to early breast cancer screenings. Citing studies such as these, some doctors just don’t see the benefit of scaring patients and treating harmless abnormalities.”

Radiation is another concern for many women and the reason many opt not to start breast cancer screening at an early age:
“While causing breast cancer from multiple x-rays does not happen often, many do have concerns about this risk. Before patients decide to start screening regularly, they should talk over the risks and benefits with their doctors.”

Statistics show that about 1 of every 8 women born today will develop breast cancer sometime in their lives. It is a deadly disease. It can be caused by genetics, diet or for reasons no one really knows. If you have a family history of breast cancer, then perhaps breast cancer screening at an earlier age (30-40) is warranted. One thing to remember is:

“Still, even the most modest numbers show that screening reduced death rates by at least 23 percent. In some studies, the rates were reduced by over 60 percent.”

“Simply put, receiving regular mammograms will save lives, even during patients’ early forties. The tests can detect breast cancer as early as stage one. Such an early diagnosis will greatly improve the patients’ chances of survival, helping doctors to act more quickly at the beginning.”

The bottom line is that screening is important and needs to be done. At what age and how often to be screened is something that you and your doctor(s) need to discuss on a regular basis. Then it’s up to you to go and be screened.

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