Women over age 40 benefit from annual mammogram

The recent breast cancer screening article, “Doubts grow on mammograms’ value,” has many women doubting if they should have a mammogram. How unfortunate, given that the Canadian trial referenced is based on a deeply flawed and widely discredited study. Among a few of the most alarming elements of the trial are that it is based on early 1980s Canadian mammography technique, which was not even considered state-of-the-art at that time.

What women need to know is that every major American medical organization with expertise in breast cancer care, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Cancer Society, recommends that women start getting annual mammograms at age 40. Statistics have demonstrated that women over the age of 40 who choose not to get a yearly mammogram increase their odds of dying from breast cancer. There is no doubt that treatment for any advanced cancers, ultimately found in those who put off their screening, will be far more extensive.

According to National Cancer Institute data, since mammography screening became widespread in the early 1990s, the U.S. breast cancer death rate, which was unchanged for the previous 50 years, dropped well over 30 percent. The goal of mammography is to detect cancer early, when it’s most treatable, preserving quality of life.

Breast imaging has recently become more effective. Today it relies on an individualized approach, paying attention to the density of the breast tissue and the risk profile of each patient, and utilizes additional techniques such as tomosynthesis ultrasound and MRI accordingly.

Most of us know a survivor who likely would not be here today had she chosen not to have a mammogram. All doubt should be removed – women over 40 benefit greatly from keeping their annual preventive screening appointment.

Markus Holzhauer, M.D.

Breast Imaging Specialist

Windsong Radiology Group