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The Annual Mammogram debate

A baseline mammogram is recommended, beginning at age 40, for all women as a preventive measure to reduce the risk of breast cancer. Annual mammograms thereafter are thought to reduce the risk of breast cancer through early detection. The American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute, as well as the American College of Radiology all agree on this recommendation.

Recently, results were released from a 25 year study of Canadian women ages 40-59 that found no benefit for women who were randomly assigned to have mammograms The study is called the Canadian National Breast Screening Study. The overall death rate from breast cancer was the same in both groups, but 1 in 424 women who had mammograms received unnecessary cancer treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. It is believed that the practice of annual mammograms, regardless of a woman’s risk factors, can lead to false positives in a small percentage of women, and no overall improvement in death rates for all women.

Healthy lifestyles, improved dietary intake, adequate sleep and reduced stress levels are all ways to improve one’s health status. Prevention of illness and disease is the goal of such behaviors. Preventive screenings, such as a baseline mammogram, is encouraged to further reduce the risk of breast cancer. Additionally, early detection of breast cancer can lead to greater treatment options and a higher chance of a cure/remission. For that reason, all women are encouraged to have an open dialogue with their health care provider on the merits of annual mammograms. For further information on breast cancer treatment, connect with your local chapter of the American Cancer Society.