Mammograms starting at age 40 still work best at catching cancer early.
Letter to the Editor:
I would like to respectfully submit my professional opinion on the recent Associated Press story in the Statesboro Herald and in the national news, with regards to the revised mammography guidelines from the American Cancer Society. As a woman, a physician and the Director of Women’s Imaging in Statesboro, I feel obligated to clarify the facts and allay the confusion about when to start screening, and the frequency that screening should be performed for the women in our community.
The guidelines we adhere to at East Georgia Radiology are in accordance with the American College of Radiology, the Society for Breast Imaging, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. We recommend yearly mammograms starting at age 40 to ensure the maximum benefit from screening. The age to stop screening should be determined by a patient’s relative health and presence of other diseases. While both the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the American Cancer Society have revised their guidelines, the data still indicates that starting annual mammography at age 40 saves the most lives.
I want to share our local statistics with you, followed by national statistics and my personal experience. During 2014-2015, 10 percent of the breast cancers we detected and biopsied in Bulloch and surrounding counties were in women aged of 45 and under. Of those, 90 percent were invasive cancers. National research has shown us that 1 in 6 breast cancers occur in women ages 40-49. About 40 percent of the life years lost to breast cancer are in women diagnosed with breast cancer in their 40s. For women over the age of 50, skipping a mammogram every other year would miss up to 30 percent of cancers. In my personal experience, the cancers I have diagnosed in younger women below age 45 are usually faster growing and more aggressive. This is 1 in 10 of my patients.
Please recognize that the new guidelines are only recommendations and do not currently prohibit anyone from continuing annual screenings starting at 40. The NPR and ACR recently published articles that summarize this very well. I encourage anyone reading this to visit: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/10/20/450259578/ok-when-am-i-supposed-to-get-a-mammogram and http://www.acr.org/About-Us/Media-Center/Press-Releases/2015-Press-Releases/20151020-ACR-SBI-Recommend-Mammography-at-Age-40.
If legislation is not passed to protect coverage of annual screening and screening mammography for women in their early 40s, then insurance companies will NOT be required to cover that cost. If you feel strongly, as I do, that we as women should protect our right to choose the age and frequency of screening mammography, you can visit https://www.change.org/p/u-s-house-of-representatives-u-s-senate-protect-women-s-access-to-mammograms.
Please think about how this may affect you and all of the people in your life. If you have questions, schedule an appointment to discuss them with your physician or health care provider.
After reviewing the literature, I remain convinced that yearly screening starting at age 40 does much more benefit than harm for myself and for my patients. For more information, please visit www.egradiology.com.
Janine M. Dodds, MD
Director of Women’s Imaging
East Georgia Radiology