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Mammogram testing on rise

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Deana Tuell has worked at Columbus Regional Hospital since 2001, and she’s witnessed nothing but an upward trend in mammogram numbers since then.

“Our numbers go up every year, and that’s what we want,” said Tuell, manager and breast health navigator at CRH.

According to the National Cancer Institute, women 40 and older should get a mammogram every one to two years.

CRH and Susan G. Komen for the Cure offer more strict guidelines, recommending women 40 and older should get mammograms every year.

Last year, CRH performed 9,420 routine screenings, up from 8,137 in 2010.

“Mammograms are the best screening tool we have available for detecting breast cancer early,” said Wendy Noe, grants and education coordinator for the central Indiana affiliate of Susan G. Komen.

There are two types of mammograms. Screening mammograms check for breast cancer in women who have no symptoms of the disease, while diagnostic mammograms are used to check for breast cancer after a symptom has been found.

CRH offers screening mammograms for $270 for the uninsured. Through June, the hospital had performed 3,549 screening mammograms and 5,797 in all.

Early detection being the key, Noe said women should begin getting clinical breast exams every two or three years while in their 20s.

Noe said Susan G. Komen continues to research new methods to detect breast cancer.

“Sometimes doctors use MRIs and ultrasounds, but they should never replace mammograms,” Noe said.

Statewide in 2011, 71 percent of women 40 and older got mammograms, but only 35 percent of women without health insurance did the same, Noe said.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 210,203 U.S. women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, and 40,589 died from the disease.

About three years ago, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released mammogram guidelines that differ from the current ones. The group suggested women 50 and older — not 40 and older — start routine screenings.

Tuell and Noe contend those guidelines are wrong.

“There were all kinds of people saying people don’t benefit from mammograms,” Tuell said. “Dollar wise, it didn’t work — that’s what they were saying — that we weren’t saving enough lives to justify the expenses. But we disagree.”

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