The Medical Minute: Happy 40th birthday -- time for your mammogram

By Michelle Farnan

Cake, ice cream, parties and your mammogram! The issue of when to get a screening mammogram has raised many questions over the past six months. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) announced new guidelines in November 2009. These recommendations did not include mammograms for average risk women ages 40-49. The members of this task force are primary care physicians from across the country. Many breast specialists continue to support celebrating your 40th birthday with a mammogram.

Penn State Hershey Breast Center continues to recommend annual screening mammograms beginning at age 40.

The American Cancer Society recommends no changes in current guidelines to start screening at age 40, for the following evidenced based reasons:

  • One in 69 patients in their 40’s will be diagnosed with breast cancer
  • Mammography can detect breast cancers at a smaller size and earlier stage than is possible without the test
  • When breast cancer is detected at an early stage, the chance for cure is greater
  • There is no medical test that has been as completely studied as screening mammography. The criteria that must be met to prove that a breast screening test is worth the cost are the following:

--It must be able to detect breast cancer at a smaller size/stage

-- Randomized controlled trials must show the test brings about a reduction in breast cancer deaths

-- When the breast screening test is introduced into the general population, the breast cancer death rate must decline as predicted by the randomized controlled trials

Screening mammography has fulfilled all three requirements. Therefore, in the best interest of your health, Penn State Hershey breast specialists will continue to advocate for screening mammography, using low radiation dose digital mammography for patients at average risk beginning at age 40.

If you know someone turning 40, be sure your wish to them includes a gentle reminder about getting a screening mammogram. This simple test does not require a doctor’s order and can ultimately save a life. For questions regarding breast health, call Michelle Farnan, nurse navigator, Penn State Hershey Breast Center, at 717-531-7942.

Michelle Farnan, Penn State Hershey Breast Center, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

Contacts: 
Last Updated May 10, 2010