An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
Women in the US have a one in eight risk over the course of their lifetime of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Most women know that getting an annual mammogram at age 40 and beyond can help detect breast cancer in its earliest stages when it’s most treatable. Yet still, approximately 30% of women fail to get their routine mammogram screenings. A 2009 study demonstrated that three-fourths of breast cancer deaths occur in women who don’t undergo yearly mammograms. So, what’s holding women back from getting screened? Whether it’s the fact that 40-year old women tend to be too busy taking care of everyone else or other factors – the evidence is clear that getting a routine mammogram can save lives.
Raleigh Radiology breast imaging radiologist Dr. Daniel Shekleton has a long history of promoting breast cancer screening – and for good reason. He lost his mother to breast cancer at the age of 14, so it’s a topic near and dear to his heart. “Like most of us, I’ve been touched personally by the devastating effects of breast cancer. Today, as a radiologist, every day that I make a diagnosis of breast cancer is a good day. That’s because if I find cancer early enough, I know the patient can be a survivor and can go on to live a completely normal and healthy life,” he concludes. An ounce of prevention – or in this case, early diagnosis – really is worth a pound of cure.
A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray of the breast that’s designed to help detect abnormalities in the breast tissue before cancer symptoms begin. This is beneficial because research clearly demonstrates that women who are diagnosed with breast cancer in its early stages are less likely to need a mastectomy and/or chemotherapy – and the cure rates are also higher for cancers detected early.
While mammography screening for breast cancer has been around since the 1950s, it did not become the gold standard for screening until the 1980s. Since then, research has shown that mammography has helped reduce breast cancer mortality by anywhere from 35 to 50 percent.
There are two types of mammography screening tests – either traditional 2D or newer 3D (digital breast tomosynthesis) mammography. Standard 2D mammography will take 4 images of the breast, while digital 3D screening obtains additional images using multiple angles. For women with dense breast tissue, a 3D mammogram can make it easier for radiologists to see around or through dense tissue to better detect abnormalities that could be pre-cancerous or cancerous.
“When it comes to mammography, any screening is better than no screening,” explains Dr. Shekleton. “Regardless of which option you choose, make sure you’re getting screened regularly – it just might save your life.”
Screening Recommendations, Clarified
While there are many organizations with varying recommendations for mammography screening, Raleigh Radiology follows guidance set forth by the American College of Radiology (ACR) and the Society for Breast Imaging (SBI) – which indicate that women of average lifetime risk (no family history, no genetic risk factors, etc.) should be screened with a mammogram annually starting at age 40. Quoting Dr. Shekleton, “Screening mammography saves lives, annual screening mammography beginning at age 40 saves the most lives.” Women deemed at high risk may start screening as early as age 25, and, in addition to mammography, screening breast MRI may also be recommended.
Raleigh Radiology offers 2D and 3D mammograms throughout the region. To schedule a mammogram, call our office at (919) 781-1437.