Breast cancer is an ongoing health concern for American women. About 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime, and it kills women at a higher rate than any other cancer besides lung cancer.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
One of the main risk factors for breast cancer is age, so we at Regency Nursing are committed to raising awareness of breast cancer among our residents and families.
The current screening recommendation for women with no history of cancer is to receive a mammogram every 1–2 years from the age of 40 or 50 until around 75.
A mammogram is an x-ray picture of the breast, used to detect early signs of breast cancer. Having an annual mammogram is one of the best ways to find breast cancer early, before it spreads to other areas of the body.
Most private insurances cover annual mammogram screenings, and Medicare offers an annual mammogram at no cost from age 40 and up.
The exact screening recommendations are contested, though. About 10 years ago, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) updated their recommendation. They now say women don’t need to start receiving mammograms until age 50, and even then they only need one every other year. The American Cancer Society and other advocacy groups disagree, however, and maintain that most women should start at age 40 and undergo the screening annually.
After age 75, the picture is much more fuzzy. That’s because hardly any credible research has been done on breast cancer survival rates on women over that age. USPSTF says the risks of mammogram outweigh the benefits once you reach advanced old age, and they recommend stopping the routine screening after age 75.
However, a 2014 study of elderly women found that mammography resulted in longer life-expectancy and better outcomes for that age group.
So should you get a mammogram this year?
The answer depends on many factors: your age, your general health, whether you have a previous history of breast or other cancers, whether you have a family history of female cancers, and whether you had a mammogram last year.
Ask your doctor to share the most recent breast cancer research with you, and discuss whether annual mammograms are right for you.