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Martha Jefferson Healthwise: Breast Cancer Outlook Not As Promising for Older Women


April 18, 2013

New breast cancer information is out. According to a new study, the outlook for older breast cancer patients may not be as promising if they've missed mammograms over the years.

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

The data shows that of 8,600 women in the United States that participated in the study, 23 percent of women had advanced cancer.
That's compared to the 20 percent of those who had a mammogram less than a year before their diagnosis.

"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, Registered Nurse, Martha Jefferson Hospital.

However, the outlook is better for women who have annual mammograms.

"They might be diagnosed with cancer frequently, 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 or even longer 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.

"We're looking for two main types of things...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," said Revak.

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

"Woman 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. Sometimes that that may look kind of scary turns out to have been there for 10 years and they've not damaged or hurt anybody and it's obviously not cancer," said Revak.

Although, the study only focused on older women, healthcare providers suggest that all women with a family history 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 27th 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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