Martha Jefferson Healthwise: Mammogram Study

By: Stephanie Satchell Email
By: Stephanie Satchell Email

April 17, 2013

A new study released by the American Association for Cancer Research shows that older women diagnosed with breast cancer who have not had a recent mammogram might have a more advanced stage of cancer once they are diagnosed.

"If women 75 and older don't have mammograms every year the risk of dying is greater than women who do have mammograms every year," said Mary Beth Revak, a nurse at Martha Jefferson Hospital.

But the outlook is better for women who have annual mammograms.

"They might be diagnosed with cancer frequently," said Revak, "but they're not going to die of it with the same frequency of women who have mammograms with gap years or who have never had mammograms."

Healthcare providers say the findings aren't too surprising.

"It's been proven over the 40 years we've been doing mammograms that mammograms and mammography find breast cancer early and early detection is our best way of saving lives from breast cancer to any cancer," said Revak.

During the mammogram, images are taken. Afterwards, a radiologist will check them for abnormalities.

Revak says they look for "calcifications in the breast, which are funny little calcium deposits that are kind of grouped together in the breast. Or for densities in the breast densities that shouldn't be there."

They will even compare images from previous years just to make sure there aren't any serious changes.

"Women should have a history of having mammograms so that a radiologist can look at this year's mammograms compared to last year's and the year before and the year before," said Revak. "Some things that turn out to look really scary turn out to have been there for 10 years."

Although the study only focused on older women, healthcare providers suggest that all women with a family history of breast cancer, or over the age of 40 get a mammogram because it could mean the difference between life and death.

Martha Jefferson is holding a free breast cancer screening on Saturday, April 27, at the outpatient care center.

If you don't have insurance and want to see if you qualify, call Health Connection at 434-654-7009.

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