So please be aware of these thoughts on early detection
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an annual campaign carried out by all the major public and non-profit cancer and breast cancer organizations to increase awareness of breast cancer, with a strong emphasis on early detection. While breast cancer is a year-round issue, this special time in October offers a good opportunity to think about how you can be involved, including such activities as fund raising, sharing helpful and positive personal experiences and advocating on behalf of the need for increased focus on breast cancer research and treatment.
And it's also, if you fall into the mammography guidelines, a good time to schedule your regular mammography screening or congratulate yourself on getting one. Whichever of those two options includes you, here's something to think about.
Over the preceding decade, and the past few years in particular, there have been some different opinions in the scientific community as well as some different interpretations of available data on the relationship between early diagnosis and the mortality rate from breast cancer. A healthy public debate on this kind of issue is always a good thing, but it's also important to have the facts as we know them:
- Breast cancer killed an estimated 40,000 women last year and is the second-leading cause of death among women, exceeded only by lung cancer.
- Early detection of breast cancer with screening mammography means that treatment can be started earlier in the course of the disease, possibly before it has spread.
- Results from randomized clinical trials and other studies show that mammograms can help reduce the deaths from breast cancer among women ages 40 to 70 with reductions being even more pronounced in later years.
- The five-year survival for breast cancer is 98 percent when it's caught early and 23 percent when it's not.
In the years since screening mammography became a standard of preventive care there has been a marked and uncontestable improvement in the overall health and wellbeing of American women. The effectiveness and potential for early detection that mammography provides has also led to guidelines by the American Cancer Society, the federal government's National Cancer Institute and most major health organizations that recommend that women who are not at higher than average risk for breast cancer get yearly screening mammograms starting at age 40 and continue so for as long as they are in good health.
Keeping in mind that any health decision is a personal one that involves weighing risks and benefits and discussing any concerns you may have with your doctor, research and experience strongly recommend that you have regular screening mammograms if you're within the recommended age range. Sometime in the future there very well may be a cure for breast cancer or a successful preventive approach. What we have now is that potential along with the very real value of early detection. And while mammography, as with any screening procedure, has limitations, it is the most widely available and most effective tool we have to detect breast cancer earlier, when it's more curable.
- Schedule your mammogram online
- Screening and Early Detection
- What to expect when you get a mammogram
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