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Study Supports Mammograms for Younger Women

A new breast cancer study supports the value of mammograms for women beginning at age 40. The study*, performed by researchers at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, found a significant death rate among women under age 50 who had not had screening mammograms.
The researchers evaluated more than 600 breast cancer deaths; 71 percent of the deaths were women who had not had a mammogram or had not been screened in two years or more. Half of them were women who were younger than age 50.
Mammograms for women under the age of 50 have been a source of controversy in recent years. In 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended screening mammograms every two years for women ages 50 to 74.
For women younger than 50, the panel recommended talking to their doctor to decide whether the potential benefits of screening mammograms outweigh possible harms, such as unnecessary treatment and the stress related to false positive results.
The American Cancer Society protested the recommendation and continued to stress the value of annual mammograms beginning at age 40 for women at average risk for breast cancer.
“Having regular mammograms is even more important for younger women,” notes Sarah Mezban, MD, a radiologist who is fellowship-trained in breast imaging. “Breast cancer tumors in women under 50 years of age tend to be more aggressive and grow faster.”


The Women’s Imaging Center at Virginia Hospital Center offers 3D mammography, which creates a crystal-clear 3D reconstruction of the breast. As a result, 3D mammography finds tumors that conventional mammography can miss. Your doctor also is less likely to call you back for a second look because all the breast tissue can be seen more clearly.

*Published online September 9, 2013 in the journal Cancer.

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