The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) joined many other organizations around the country when it issued a revised opinion in July, recommending that mammography screening be offered annually to women beginning at age 40. (Previous ACOG guidelines recommended mammograms every one to two years starting at age 40 and annually beginning at 50.)
You may remember in 2009 when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of doctors and scientists, told women that they no longer needed annual mammograms and recommended getting them every two years after age 40. This caused quite a stir in the medical community and left many women wondering how often they should have their mammogram.
Many organizations disregarded the new guidelines and continued to recommend annual mammograms, citing the high incidence of breast cancer and the potential to reduce deaths when caught early. Oregon Imaging Centers was among those that stood by its annual-screening stance.
Additional organizations that recommend annual mammograms include:
According to Jennifer Griffin, M.D., M.P.H, who co-authored ACOG guidelines, the change in mammography screening for women beginning at age 40 is based on three factors:
- the incidence of breast cancer;
- the sojourn time for breast cancer growth;
- and the potential to reduce the number of deaths from it.
The time period between early-stage breast cancer and symptomatic breast cancer, is known as the sojourn time. Although the sojourn time of individual cancers can vary, the greatest predictor is age. Women ages 40-49 have the shortest average sojourn time (2-2.4 years), while women ages 70-74 have the longest average sojourn time (4-4.1 years), according to ACOG.
"Although women in their 40s have a lower overall incidence of breast cancer compared with older women, the window to detect tumors before they become symptomatic is shorter, on average," said Dr. Griffin.
I wholeheartedly concur. Statistics show that annual screening of women in their 40s leads to earlier diagnosis and treatment, meaning more lives saved.
In addition to annual mammograms, I encourage you to have annual clinical breast exams if you are 40 or older, and every one to three years for those of you ages 20-39. A clinical breast exam is performed by a health care provider well trained in the technique (a physician, nurse practitioner or other medical staff). Not all providers have this training, so it is important to ask.
I also encourage you to learn how to do a breast self-exam and do them regularly. Then encourage a friend to do the same.
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of all cancer-related deaths among American women. Through early detection and when treated at its earliest stages, the five-year survival rate is 98 percent. That’s a powerful statistic.
If you haven’t had your annual mammogram, schedule one today. Call Oregon Imaging Centers at 541-334-7555.
Dr. Cathryn Chicola is the only radiologist in the southern Willamette Valley who dedicates 100 percent of her time to reading breast images. In this life-saving role, she has led the improvement of clinical services to benefit every woman in our community