Risk of Dying from Breast Cancer Higher for Women Who Don’t Get Regular Mammograms

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Getting an annual mammogram is one of the best ways to diagnose breast cancer early, when it's most treatable. A large study reinforces this fact: researchers found that the risk of dying from breast cancer was much higher for women who didn't have regular mammograms before diagnosis compared to women who did. The results were presented at the 2009 ASCO Breast Cancer Symposium.

Researchers looked at the medical records and mammogram history of nearly 7,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer from 1990 to 1999. After about 12.5 years of follow-up, 461 of the women had died from breast cancer. The mammogram history of the women who died showed:

  • 70% of the women never had a screening mammogram and were diagnosed after finding a breast lump that turned out to be cancer
  • 5% of the women had the cancer found by their first mammogram or they had skipped some mammograms and were diagnosed after finding a breast lump that turned out to be cancer
  • 25% of the women had regular mammograms and were diagnosed by a mammogram or by finding a breast lump that turned out to be cancer in the time between regular mammograms

The researchers' analysis showed that 56% of women who didn't have regular mammograms before being diagnosed with breast cancer would die from the disease compared to only 4.7% of women who had regular mammograms before diagnosis. The women in the study who didn't have regular mammograms had the same risk of dying from breast cancer as women diagnosed with breast cancer in the 1970s and earlier when routine screening mammograms weren't done.

Many women around the world don't have regular mammograms for a number of reasons. These results make it very clear that if you're over 40, skipping regular mammograms is NOT an option. By helping diagnose breast cancer early, when it's most treatable, mammograms can truly make a difference in your health and your life. To learn more about mammograms and other screening techniques, visit the Breastcancer.org Screening and Testing section.

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