New study suggests younger women need regular mammograms

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A new study in the health journal, "Cancer," argues in favor of breast cancer screenings for women younger than 50.

The researchers analyzed more than 7,000 female breast cancer victims. Of the 609 who died, about 70 percent had not undergone regular breast cancer screening or were never screened.

Half of those who died were younger than 50.

"There is clearly an advantage for women to begin screening at 40," Dr. Mark Newman, a radiologist with St. Bernards Medical Center, said.

Dr. Newman says the younger you are, the more aggressive the cancer.

"We know that women under 50 have the most aggressive cancers. And so they're the ones that'll be most likely to benefit from early detection," Newman said.

Newman said making an early diagnosis can be difficult with just a self or clinical breast exam because the cancerous lumps are often hidden.

"For women who are diagnosed with breast cancer, they're usually asymptomatic and they don't know it. Most of the breast cancer we find mammographically are not palpable," Newman said.

Newman said that's why it is so important to get regular mammograms.

He said this new study stabilizes the controversy on the right age to begin screening.

"In 2009, the United States Preventative Services Task Force came out with a study that did not recommend screening until age 50. And this study largely refutes that," Newman said.

The American Cancer Society sides with the new study, recommending  yearly mammograms beginning at age 40. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agrees with the task force, recommending mammograms every two years for women 50 to 74.

"I would strongly encourage women at age 40 to begin regular screening mammography," Newman said.

But in some cases, Newman said you cannot put an age on breast cancer.

"You do see women younger than 40 develop breast cancer. There are some women who, because of family history or genetic analysis, that may be worthwhile to start sooner," Newman said.

According to the National Cancer Institute, other factors also increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer, including beginning to menstruate before age 12, starting menopause after age 55, having a first full-term pregnancy after age 30, never having been pregnant, obesity after menopause, and alcohol use.

According to the institute, about one in every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point during her life.

To fight back against breast cancer, St. Bernards will host its fourth annual "Go Pink for the Cure Day."

Uninsured women can get free mammograms and clinical breast exams Oct. 4 at Temple Baptist Church in Jonesboro.

To be eligible, women must:

1. Have no health insurance

2. Not have had a mammogram in the last 365 days

3. Must not be having problems with their breasts

If you have any questions, please contact St. Bernards at 870-207-8000.

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