According to the American Cancer Society, one out of nine women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer. Mammography is especially valuable as an early detection tool because it can identify breast cancer at an early stage, usually before physical symptoms develop. The American Cancer Society Facts & Figures 2004 states, “The earliest sign of breast cancer is usually an abnormality that shows on a mammogram before it can be felt by the woman or her health care provider.”
Studies have shown that early detection saves lives and increases treatment options. The recent declines in breast cancer mortality have been attributed to the regular use of screening mammography and to improvements in cancer drugs. Breast cancer detected at the earliest stage is 97% survivable.
Although mammography is a critical tool in the fight against breast cancer, it does have its limitations and may miss some cancers. That is why the American Cancer Society recommends a comprehensive breast health plan for women. Please refer to the recommendations below as your breast health guide. American Cancer Society Recommendations:
- Yearly mammograms starting at age 40, and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health.
- Clinical breast exams by a health care provider should be part of a periodic health exam, about every three years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and over (close to and preferably before the scheduled mammogram).
- Women should report any breast change promptly to their health care providers.
- Beginning in their 20s, women should be told about the benefits and limitations of breast self-examination (BSE). Women who choose to do BSE should receive instruction and have their technique reviewed at the time of their periodic health examination.
- Women at an increased risk (e.g., family history, genetic tendency, past breast cancer) should talk with their doctors about the benefits and limitations of starting screening mammography earlier, having additional tests (e.g. breast ultrasound or MRI) or having more frequent exams.
If you need a mammogram and are uninsured or under insured, the Riverview Hospital Memorial Foundation manages a Mammography Fund. This fund assists individuals who meet financial requirements in paying for breast imaging studies. For more information, call 317-776-7133.