Women in their 40s nationwide are questioning whether they should avoid getting mammograms to screen for breast cancer now that a government panel of doctors and scientists has said the tests in younger women don’t improve women’s survival rates.

But cancer doctors at the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center at West Virginia University say they are advising women not to wait until age 50 to seek their first mammograms. Despite the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation that women age 40 to 50 do without screening mammography, others see lifesaving benefits in the screening.

“We encourage women to do breast self-exams and have routine mammography screening annually starting at age 40,” said Jame Abraham, M.D., medical director of the Cancer Center. “We agree with many other groups, including the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society, that routine screening for women in their 40s is an important, effective tool for early detection of breast cancer.

“We also continue recommending annual routine mammography screening for women 50 and older. We continue to believe that it is important for women to consult their doctors regarding any risk factors they may have and consider those in their decision to have a mammogram.”

Dr. Abraham serves on the board of directors of the South Atlantic Division of the American Cancer Society.

In West Virginia, as many as one-fourth of women older than 40 have not had a mammogram in the past two years, studies show. In several West Virginia counties, death rates from breast cancer are higher than the national average, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The American Cancer Society recommends yearly mammograms starting at age 40. On Nov. 16, the government task force said most women in their 40s should forgo mammograms and that, at age 50 and up, mammograms should be done every two years.

For information on the Cancer Center at WVU see http://www.hsc.wvu.edu/mbrcc/.


CONTACT: Amy Johns, HSC News Service
(304) 293-7087, johnsa@wvuh.com