Health Magazine

More Fuel for Beginning Mammograms at 40

Posted on the 16 December 2011 by Jean Campbell

mammograms for women at 40A new study finds that women, in their 40s, with no family history of breast cancer are as prone to developing the disease as higher-risk women and need to begin getting mammograms at 40.

Dr. Stamatia V. Destounis, of Rochester, N.Y, evaluated cancer patients who were seen from 2000 to 2010 at the Elizabeth Wende Breast Care facility, where she is a managing partner.

“Invasive cancer [cancer that spread to the lymph nodes] was diagnosed in 64 percent of patients without family history and 63 percent with,” Dr. Destounis said.

During the decade studied, 373 women 40 to 49 years old were diagnosed with breast cancer found as a result of the women having mammograms at the center. Of the nearly 40 percent who had a family history (meaning a primary relative with the disease), 63.2 percent had invasive breast cancer, while in the no-family-history group, 64 percent of the patients had invasive disease. (Of those without a family history, 16 had a personal history of breast cancer.)

When the researchers looked at the cancers’ aggressiveness, they found 29 percent of cancers in women without a family history and 31 percent of those with a family history had spread to the lymph nodes.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends women 40 to 49 discuss screening with their doctor and then decide. The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care earlier this month recommended that women age 40 to 49 at average risk not get routine mammograms.

Some experts, such as the American Cancer Society, agree with Dr.Destounis that annual mammograms should begin at 40.

One limitation of the study is that it was conducted at a single facility, a limitation that Dr. Destounis acknowledges. However, she reported that the women seen at the facility are ethnically diverse and from all income levels.

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