U.S. Mammogram Rates Didn’t Drop in 2011 Compared to 2008

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A study has found that mammogram rates for women 40 and older didn’t decline in 2011 compared to 2008. Other studies have found that women in their 40s and women 65 and older were getting fewer mammograms in 2010 compared to 2009.

The study was published online on April 19, 2013 by the journal Cancer. Read the abstract of “Trends in mammography screening rates after publication of the 2009 US Preventive Services Task Force recommendations.”

The value of routine screening mammograms was questioned in November 2009 when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended that routine screening mammograms for women with an average risk of breast cancer should start at age 50 instead of age 40. The USPSTF recommendations also said that women ages 50 to 74 could have screening mammograms every other year and that women older than 74 didn’t need screening mammograms. The recommended changes were very controversial and were NOT adopted.

For this study, the researchers looked at information from the National Health Interview survey, a database of information on health topics collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through in-home, personal interviews. More than 27,800 women reported how often they got mammograms in the 2005, 2008, or 2011 surveys.

The results showed the mammogram rates basically stayed the same from 2008 to 2011 for women of any age. When the researchers looked specifically at women in two age groups:

  • 40 to 49 years
  • 50 to 74 years

the results were the same. Mammogram rates for each age group stayed the same from 2008 to 2011.

At first glance, it seems confusing that some studies found mammogram rates went down from 2009 to 2010 and this study found mammogram rates didn’t change from 2008 to 2011.

Medical oncologist Brian Wojciechowski, M.D., one of Breastcancer.org’s medical advisers, offered this explanation: “This result isn’t inconsistent with the previous studies. The other studies just looked at one year: 2010.

“We can’t yet draw conclusions on the USPSTF guidelines’ effects based on these different studies which each looked at only one year,” he continued. “More observation over several years is required. What we do know is that many women who should be getting mammograms are not.”

If you're 40 or older and have an average risk of breast cancer, yearly screening mammograms should be part of your healthcare. If your breast cancer risk is higher than average, you may want to talk to your doctor about a more aggressive breast cancer screening plan that makes the most sense for your particular situation.

The Mayo Clinic, the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Radiology, the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network all recommend that screening mammograms should start at age 40.

There's only one of you and you deserve the best care possible. Don't let any obstacles get in the way of your regular screening mammograms.

  • If you're worried about cost, talk to your doctor, a local hospital social worker, or staff members at a mammogram center. Ask about free programs in your area.
  • If you're having problems scheduling a mammogram, call the National Cancer Institute (800-4-CANCER) or the American College of Radiology (800-227-5463) to find certified mammogram providers near you.
  • If you find mammograms painful, ask the mammography center staff members how the experience can be as easy and as comfortable as possible for you.

For more information on mammograms and other tests to detect and diagnose breast cancer, visit the Breastcancer.org Screening and Testing section.

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