Mammograms: When Should You Have One? [AUDIO]
When it comes to mammograms, there's no one size fits all. Some medical experts say women should start getting them at age 40, while others say its 50. What's the right answer?
"There is a lot of varied information out there. Some is good and some is not. What we now believe is that women should start having mammograms yearly at age 40. There have been other reports which recommend omitting screening from the ages of 40 to 50 and when you hit 50, to do it every other year," said Dr. Carl D'Orsi, a professor of radiology, hematology and oncology at Emory University and co-founder of the Society of Breast Imaging."But, one in six breast cancers occur in women in their 40s and 40 percent of all the years of lives saved by mammography are for women in their 40s, so to leave that decade out would be foolish. If we started screenings every other year after the age of 50, we would add about 6,500 additional breast cancer deaths in this country."
There has been a 30 percent drop in breast cancer deaths since mammography screening became widespread in the mid-1980s.
"It's a simple message, yearly mammograms at age 40 will give you the best chance of avoiding breast cancer death. For population, detection of suspicious findings, mammograms have been shown to be the best tests. MRI is excellent, but it's not as simple as a mammogram. It's more invasive and extremely expensive," said D'Orsi. "You can always add MRI to certain situations if you need additional information, but for a basic, routine screening, mammography is the best way to go."
If there is a family history of breast cancer, it is recommended that women start their screenings earlier than 40. For more information, visit www.mammographysaveslives.org and www.breastdensity.info.