There’s been some controversy about when women should get mammograms since a federal task force issued unfounded and contradictory recommendations in November. But numerous professional groups support the American Cancer Society’s original recommendations that women 40 and older should get a mammography screening each year.
The bottom line: If you’re a woman over 40, you still should have one every year.
The American College of Surgeons, the American College of Radiology, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services — and Intermountain Healthcare’s Oncology Clinical Program — strongly support the American Cancer Society’s original recommendations.
“However you say it, women over age 40 need a screening mammogram every year,” says Brett Parkinson, MD, director of breast care services at Intermountain Medical Center.
After an extensive study by Intermountain Healthcare’s Oncology Clinical Program and a panel of preventive experts, Intermountain Healthcare continues to strongly support the American Cancer Society guidelines for early detection of breast cancer. The guidelines include these steps:
- Practice breast care self-awareness recommendations beginning at age 20.
- Get a clinical breast exam by a qualified primary care provider every three years between ages 20 and 40, then every year after age 40.
- Get an annual screening mammogram beginning at age 40.
“These steps could save your life. That’s why we support them so strongly,” says Dr. Parkinson
Getting a mammogram every year after age 40 is the best way to detect cancer early, when it’s in its most curable stage (since we don’t know how to prevent it). “Nearly 20 percent of breast cancers occur in women age 40 to 50,” says Dr. Parkinson. “If these women stop getting screenings this year, there will be an additional 12,000 deaths nationwide due to late diagnosis of breast cancer. There will also be more unnecessary deaths for women over the age of 75.”
“Multiple clinical trials have demonstrated that screening mammography is the only way to decrease the mortality rate for breast cancer,” he says. “In fact, since the widespread implementation of screening mammography in the 1980s, there’s been a dramatic reduction in the death rate from breast cancer. Until 1990 the mortality rate had been flat for the previous 50 years. However, since 1990 the mortality rate has decreased by 30 percent.”
Intermountain Healthcare has convenient screening mammography centers located throughout the Salt Lake Valley: Alta View Hospital in Sandy, Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, and at LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City. You can schedule an appointment at all facilities by calling one number: 801-507-7840.
“If you’re 40 and haven’t had a screening mammogram in the past year, we’re waiting for your call,” says Dr. Parkinson.
Since this exam takes less than 30 minutes, you can even schedule one on a workday. Many of our facilities are open as early as 7:30 a.m. and some facilities have after-work appointments.
Why are screening mammograms so important? “Since one in eight women will develop breast cancer sometime during her life, you owe it to yourself, your family, and your co-workers to schedule this important screening exam,” Dr. Parkinson says. “Even if you have no family history, you’re at risk. 75 to 80 percent of breast cancers occur in women with no family history. Intermountain Healthcare strongly encourages this important screening exam for all female employees.”