Further Validation — Mammograms Benefit Women Aged 40- 49

by Bonnie Joe, M.D., Ph.D. on March 13, 2012

Recent new research further validates the need for women to begin screening for breast cancer with mammography at age 40. The study, published in the February issue of Radiology, from the Swedish Cancer Institute in Seattle, concludes that women between the ages of 40 and 49 whose cancers were discovered by mammograms needed less treatment and lived longer than those whose cancers were detected by other means.

Once again, the take home message is:  screening mammography saves lives. The UCSF Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging, as well as the American Cancer Society and many major medical organizations, stand by the recommendation for women to begin annual screening mammograms at age 40, despite the controversial 2009 guidelines from the U.S. Preventative Task Force.

According to the U.S. Preventative Task Force, the benefits of screening with mammography for women aged 40 to 49 are outweighed by the potential harm. However, this recent study debunks that notion, as the results showed a dramatic increase in early stage tumors caught with mammograms in women aged 40-49 and a decrease in the number of advanced Stage 3 cancers (advanced cancers decrease by 66% during the 18-year study period).

Earlier detection leads to earlier cancer diagnoses and less invasive treatments, with fewer women having to undergo chemotherapy and radical mastectomy, and, as a result, a higher rate of survival.  This research further supports the benefits of screening mammograms beginning at age 40.

For more information on Women’s Imaging at UCSF, please see here.

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