Experts estimate that in 2022, health care providers across the United States will diagnose about 288,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer, and close to 51,000 new cases of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a highly treatable form of early-stage breast cancer.
At the same time, about 43,000 women will also die from the disease before the year is over.
Anyone can get breast cancer, including women without significant risk factors. But it’s not all bad news: Having routine screening mammograms is all it takes to increase your chances of catching breast cancer in its early, most treatable stages, and reduce your risk of mortality.
This October, in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Tyneza Mitchell, FNP, and our seasoned women’s health team at Comprehensive Care Clinic in Spring, Texas, explain the importance of having regular mammograms — and how swift breast cancer detection can save your life.
Breast cancer accounts for 1 in 3 new female cancer cases each year in the United States. After skin cancer, it’s the second most common cancer diagnosis among American women, and 1 in 8 women will develop the disease at some point in their lives.
While women of all ages can develop breast cancer, a small percentage are diagnosed with the disease before the age of 45. It’s most common among middle-aged and older women — the median age for breast cancer diagnosis in the U.S. is 62 years old.
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among American women, after lung cancer. While that statistic reveals how far society still has to go in lessening the impact of this terrible disease, it’s only half the story.
The other half of the story is a lot more optimistic: Thanks to one invaluable preventive tool — screening mammograms — the number of women over the age of 50 dying of breast cancer has been steadily declining since 2007.
Routine screening mammograms are the best way to catch breast cancer before it causes symptoms or becomes metastatic, spreading beyond your breast to other body tissues. In fact, women who catch and treat invasive breast cancer at this early, contained stage have a 5-year survival rate of 99%.
Simply put, mammograms are lifesaving, and having regular breast cancer screenings (including clinical breast exams and mammograms as recommended) could one day save your life.
If you have an average risk of developing breast cancer — meaning you don’t have a family history of the disease or other factors that place you in the high-risk category — early breast cancer detection guidelines offer the following recommendations on mammogram frequency and timing:
You can choose to begin having annual screening mammograms if you wish to do so.
You should have annual mammograms.
You can continue with annual screenings, or switch to having mammograms every 2 years if you haven’t had irregular mammogram results in the past.
Screening mammograms should continue into older age (annually or every 2 years) if you’re in good general health and are expected to live at least 10 more years.
If you have a higher-than-average breast cancer risk because of your family history, genetic predisposition, or other factors, you may be advised to have a screening mammogram along with a breast MRI every year starting at the age of 30.
Screening mammogram appointments occur in conjunction with your annual physical exam at a separate appointment at a diagnostic imaging center. Most screening mammograms take 30 minutes or less to complete.