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Mammograms save lives. Believe me, I know. Had my wife not gone to her annual mammogram in 2008, then followed up with treatment, she would most certainly be dead by now.
Mammograms allow doctors to discover tumors while they’re very small and most responsive to treatment. They show changes in the breast up to two years before a patient or physician can feel them.
A Harvard Medical School study, published earlier this month, involved over 7,300 patients. Seventy-one percent of the confirmed breast cancer deaths in the study occurred in the 20 percent of the patients who did not receive regular mammograms.
Said another way, 71 percent of the study group’s deaths occurred in 20 percent of the group’s patients. Only 29 percent of the group’s deaths occurred in the other 80 percent. Would you rather be in the 20 percent or in the 80 percent? Well, duh. That
80 percent is the part of the group that received regular mammograms.
You’re going to wait until age 50 to start having them? Your choice, but consider this: 50 percent of the breast cancer deaths in this Harvard Medical School study occurred in women under the age of 50. My wife was 48 when she was diagnosed. Her cancer was very aggressive, and she might not have made it to 50.
The study concluded that regular mammograms for women 40 and older can significantly reduce breast cancer deaths through early detection.
Yes, there was that thing about waiting until 50. In 2009, the United States Preventative Task Force, which has no affiliation with the United States government, advised against annual mammograms for women in their 40s. That study was rejected by every major medical organization. By not getting annual mammograms starting at age 40, you increase your chances of dying from breast cancer and increase the likelihood you will experience more extensive treatment for any cancers found.
Since 1990, the death rate from breast cancer in the United States has decreased by 30 percent. Early detection deserves much of the credit.
I’m told mammograms are uncomfortable. But the discomfort goes away quickly. Dying of cancer is a thousand times more uncomfortable, and that discomfort doesn’t go away.
The American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute and other organizations strongly recommend that women have annual mammograms starting at age 40, even if they have no symptoms or family history of breast cancer. Please, please, please, follow their recommendation. It could save your life.
Tim Vrana is a community columnist. He may be reached at email@example.com. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.
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