Sorting Out the Mammogram Debate

Call it the mammography controversy.

"There's all this confusion and debate," says Dr. Lewis Jones, director of breast imaging at Ingham Regional Medical Center.

Women unclear on when and how often they need to have a mammogram, since a government task force recommended that instead of being screened annually starting at age 40, women should be screened starting at age 50 until age 74, just every other year.

That conflicts with long-standing American Cancer Society recommendations that women begin annual screenings at age 40.
Dr. Jones says, in general, that's the way to go.

"There is no reason for women to start at 50," he says. "We're going to miss a lot of cancers if we start at 50."

There are two types of mammograms: film and digital.

Dr. Jones says both techniques are good, but pre-menopausal women and those with very dense breasts should opt for digital.

"You can see more clearly through the dense tissue than you can with your old fashioned screen film systems," Jones explains.

Melissa Dore, a two-time breast cancer survivor, calls her routine screening serendipitous. After a mammogram showed a lump, Dore went to a surgeon, who actually found cancer in the other breast that had already spread to seven of her lymph nodes.

"The mammogram made all the difference, all the difference," Dore says. "If I would have let another year go by, I think I would have been in big trouble."

Dr. Jones suggests women talk to their physicians about their individual risk for breast cancer.

You can help fight breast cancer by taking part in the American Cancer Society's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk on Saturday, October 23 at the state capitol.


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