Radiologists say mammograms should start at 40

November 30th, 2011

When the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended in 2009 that routine breast cancer screenings should begin at age 50 instead of 40, controversy ensued about the benefits of screening for breast cancer and the age a woman should have her first mammogram.

Now a new study, presented at the Radiological Society of North America’s annual meeting in Chicago, found that women between the ages of 40 to 49 do have a high rate of developing breast cancer even if they don’t have a family history of the illness.

The study authors believe their results support the recommendation that annual screening mammograms begin at age 40, which other organizations like the American Cancer Society and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also endorse.

The study looked at patient’s records from the database at the Elizabeth Wende Breast Care clinic in Rochester, New York, over a 10-year period. (2000-2010) They found 1,071 of more than 6,000 patients were between the ages of 40-49. Of those, 373 patients were screened for breast cancer.

The researchers found 144, or 39 percent, of those women had a family history of breast cancer, while 228 (61 percent) did not, with one patient whose history was unknown.

“There’s been a lot of talk about who should get mammograms, especially the 40 age group, and we found these women were indeed being diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Dr. Stamatia Destounis, lead author of the paper and a doctor at the breast care clinic. “And even worse, many of the cases had spread to the lymph nodes, which means early detection is important.”

The data showed invasive cancer was diagnosed in 64 percent of cases presenting without family history and 63 percent with family history. The lymph node metastatic rate was similar, at 29 percent without and 31 percent with family history.

“Family history does not seem to impact the rate of invasive disease in this particular patient group,” Destounis said. “Which leads us to believe that women, even those who don’t have a family history, could greatly benefit from a mammogram beginning in their early forties.”
Post by: Val Wadas-Willingham – CNN Medical Producer
Filed under: Breast Cancer • Cancer • Families

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