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Have you had your mammogram this year?

If you are a woman over 40, an annual mammogram is your only assurance of detecting breast cancer in its earliest stage, before it has had time to spread. Only an x-ray will detect the very small tumors as early as two years before you or your physician can feel them by palpating the breast. Yet a National Cancer Institute survey of American women determined that only one-third of women ages 50 to 59 are having regular mammograms. Another survey showed that 25 percent or more of all women over 50 have never been x-rayed for breast cancer.

The percentage of women being x-rayed annually for breast cancer is even less in older age groups--less than 20 percent for women in their 70s. Yet the risk of getting breast cancer increases dramatically with age. At age 40, one of every 217 women will get breast cancer. At 50, by which time most women have passed menopause, the risk rises to one in 50. At 85, it is one in nine!

What is responsible for women showing such a poor response to having annual mammograms, as recommended by the American Cancer Society for all women over 50? Do women--and even their doctors--not know that getting older is the single greatest risk for breast cancer? Last year, a controversial Canadian study seemed to show that regular mammography of women in their 40s did nothing to lessen their risk of dying from breast cancer. Although this may be true, it should in no way deter women over 40 from having annual mammograms that unquestionably lessen their risk of dying from breast cancer.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Benjamin Franklin Literary & Medical Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Medical Update
Date:Aug 1, 1993
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