The journal, Radiology has recently published the results of the longest running breast cancer screening study ever conducted. The international team of researchers studied 130,000 women in Sweden and has concluded that regular mammograms prevent deaths from breast cancer, and the number of lives saved increases over time.
In the last two years, a controversy has arisen concerning breast screening recommendations that were originally issued by the influential advisory group, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. They advised against routine mammograms for women over 40 and claimed that women over 50 should get mammograms every other year instead of every year.
These recommendations contradicted years of messages about the need for routine breast cancer screening starting at age 40. Although the intent was to spare women some of the concern and expense of additional testing, breast cancer experts and advocacy groups argued these new guidelines would only confuse women and result in more deaths from breast cancer.
Many groups, including The American Cancer Society have never wavered in its endorsement of a yearly breast exam for women starting at age 40. They have always stressed the fact that breast X-rays have saved many lives because they detect tumors in early stages, when they are most easily and effectively treated.
Every year, breast cancer kills 500,000 people globally and is the second-leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women, after lung cancer. New data cements evidence concerning the long-term benefits of regular mammography screening. While some controversy may still remain concerning the frequency of screening, there is no question that screening is an effective tool against a formidable enemy.
The change in established guidelines may have caused much confusion about the benefits of mammograms, but there are still fewer more effective weapons in the arsenal against the early detection of breast cancer.
Beginning at age of 40 and consistent routine screening is still the battle cry that will ultimately win the war.