October kicks off Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness about this debilitating disease and its impact on women and their families. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women. About 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer over her lifetime.
While rates have been steady in women younger than 50, they have decreased in older women. This is believed to be the case because of improved screening techniques. Breast cancer screenings are one of the best tools we have to fight this disease.
Let’s learn more about the importance of regular screenings for breast cancer and how often they should be done.
Benefits of Regular Breast Cancer Screenings
Screening tests are used to find cancer before a person has symptoms. By catching cancer early, it’s usually easier to treat. Breast cancer screenings are done by mammograms, a special series of x-rays taken of the breast. Doctors look for abnormal signs or patterns that might be cancer. MRIs may also be used as a screening tool.
The benefits of having regular breast cancer screenings are:
- Catch cancers early
- Prevent cancer from spreading to other parts of the body
- 10-25 percent less chance of dying from breast cancer
- Start treatment earlier, leading to improved outcomes
How Often Should Women Get Screened for Breast Cancer?
Studies show that screening for breast cancer in women ages 40 to 74 can help reduce deaths. But how often should these screenings be done? The American Cancer Society recommends the following:
- Women ages 40-44 should have the option to start annual breast cancer screenings with mammograms.
- Women ages 45-54 should have a mammogram done yearly.
- Women ages 55 and older can continue with yearly mammograms or switch to mammograms every 2 years.
The American Cancer Society also recommends that ALL women be aware of the risks and benefits to screening, as well as report any breast changes to their healthcare provider right away.
Talk to Your Doctor about the Early Detection of Cancer
Annual screenings can help you find breast cancer early when it’s easier to treat. Talk to your healthcare provider to determine if screening is right for you, and if so, how often you should have it done.