More women may be putting off much needed breast exams than in past years.
Although mammograms can spot breast tumors, many women are confused of
when to begin breast exams, stemming from unclear guidelines.
Recent research shows the number of women in their 40s having mammograms
has dropped since 2009, when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF)
recommended that women receive mammograms every two years after they turn
50, and younger women should consult with their doctor to decide, a contradiction
from the years of guidelines recommending women begin screenings every
year after they turn 40.
The USPSTF says the updated guidelines were meant to spare women some of
the risk, anxiety and expense of extra tests needed to distinguish between
cancer and harmless lumps, but the American Cancer Society, Thibodaux
Regional Medical Center and many other organizations endorse yearly breast
exams for women starting at age 40, stressing that mammograms have been
proven to save lives by detecting tumors early, when they are most treatable.
“Mammography saves a significant number of lives in all women 40
and over,” said Camile Richard, Director of Imaging at Thibodaux
Regional. “There is no reason not to recommend that women of average
risk begin annual screening mammography at age 40.”
Recent studies show that the benefit of mammography greatly exceeds any
risks that may be involved. Evidence strongly supports the mortality benefit
of annual screening mammography beginning at age 40, whereas potential
harms of screening are minor.
A study from the University of Colorado and University of Michigan in the
February issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology using the same
risk models as the USPSTF found that annual mammograms starting at age
40 save 65,000 more women from breast cancer and cuts the risk of dying
by 71 percent compared to a 23 percent reduction in risk if women began
screenings at age 50.
In a separate study, conducted at the University of Missouri in Columbia,
MO comparing women treated for breast cancer that had a mammography screening
and those identified under other clinical methods, researchers found excluding
women ages 40 and 49 years of age from annual exams under the USPSTF mammography
guidelines would negatively impact survival.
Screening women age 40 to 49 with mammography detected smaller breast cancers,
with less chance of spread to the lymph nodes, than relying on clinical
breast exams alone. Five year disease-free survival rate was estimated
at 94 percent for mammography group and 78 percent for those identified
“Breast cancer found in its earliest stages offers the greatest chance
of remission and survival, and a mammogram can detect cancer as much as
a year or two before you or your doctor can feel it,” said Jay Fakier,
MD, Radiologist at Thibodaux Regional. “But breast self-exam is
still an important part of a woman’s wellness.”
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide. It kills 500,000
people globally every year and is diagnosed in close to 1.3 million people
around the world.
Thibodaux Regional was the first hospital in the region to offer digital
mammography with computer-aided detection and is accredited by the American
College of Radiology. In 2009, Thibodaux Regional received the Outstanding
Achievement Award from the American College of Surgeons Commission on
Cancer for the second time and is the only hospital in Louisiana to do
so. Thibodaux Regional has performed more breast cancer screening than
any other group in the region and continues screenings at the main hospital
campus in Thibodaux and at the Family Medical Center in Gray. To find
out more about breast cancer screening call 985-493-4756.
About Thibodaux Regional Health System
Thibodaux Regional Health System, a 185-bed acute care facility, provides
inpatient and outpatient care for the people of Lafourche and seven surrounding
parishes. Highly specialized services offered include Heart Surgery, Medical
and Radiation Oncology, Neurology, Neurosurgery, Orthopedic Surgery, Sports
Medicine, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, General, Laparoscopic, and
Bariatric Surgery, Pulmonology, Rheumatology, Women’s Services,
Sleep Disorders, Behavioral Health, and Inpatient and Outpatient Physical
Rehabilitation Services. Nationally recognized for quality care and service,
Thibodaux Regional has been named a Distinguished Hospital by J.D. Power
and Associates and has been honored with the Press Ganey Summit Award
for high levels of patient satisfaction.