BY KELLY CRONIN, MD
October is the month that has been designated Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Why do we need a whole month to raise awareness you may ask? Because one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. It is a frightening statistic; 12% of women will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime. However, what you may not be aware of is there is one thing women can do which has been repeatedly proven to decrease their risk of dying of breast cancer: get screening mammograms once a year starting at the age of 40.
The incidence of death from breast cancer has steadily declined since the 1990s. A large part of this decline is due to the increased early detection of breast cancer as a result of widespread screening mammography programs in the US. Screening mammograms (a noninvasive x-ray of the breast) allow radiologists to detect breast cancer before it is large enough to feel, and while the chance for a cure is highest. Unfortunately, conflicting society recommendations have resulted in confusion as to when to begin and how often to screen for breast cancer. In 2009, the US Preventative Task Force (USPTF) recommended women delay screening mammograms until the age of 50. This recommendation has not been supported by the American Cancer Society or the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and furthermore, the American College of Radiology, Society of Breast Imaging and the American Society of Breast Surgeons all agree that screening at 40 years old will save the most lives. The USPTF recommendations sited the “harms” of mammography, including the stress of being called back and the potential to have a biopsy for something that is not cancer. They overlook the fact that mammography is a “good news” exam for about 90% of women! They also don’t take into account that the incidence of breast cancer in black, Hispanic, and Asian women peaks in their 40s. Women in their 40s account for 1/6 new breast cancer diagnoses. The USPTF also acknowledges that if women followed these screening recommendations, an additional 6,500 women would die of their breast cancer each year.
It is important to note these statistics and recommendations apply to women of average risk for developing breast cancer. In other words, women with no family history of breast cancer should start screening at the age of 40. Seventy-five percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer in their 40s have no family history. A new emphasis is being placed on women with a family history of breast cancer to speak with their doctors, because some patients with a family history or other risk factors may need to undergo screening sooner than age 40.
Why mammography? Isn’t there something better? Mammography has been extensively studied over the years and has been proven, over and over, to unequivocally decrease your risk of dying from breast cancer. Studies in Canada and Sweden show similar outcomes with 30-40% fewer deaths in groups of women getting screening mammography versus those who do not. Ultrasound and MRI are useful to further evaluate areas in the breast, but cannot perform as well as a mammogram in consistently detecting early breast cancer.
Crystal Murden-Pittman, a breast cancer survivor, shared, “I’ve had regular screening mammograms for years. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018 during my regular screening mammogram. On Monday, July 16, 2018, I had a biopsy and received the diagnosis that no woman wants to hear. My surgery was scheduled for the first week of August that same year. This diagnosis and journey has been the most difficult of my life. However, with support from my husband, Tim, and children, Christina, Christal, Tahtiana, and Dennis, and my extended family, as well as Dr. Marissa McNatt, my surgeon, I am embracing life and moving forward. I’m excited for the future. I encourage all women to take the time to get regular breast exams; mine was caught early as a result of a mammogram. Screening mammograms are key.”
Join us on Tuesday, October 8, from 5-7pm at Medaloni Cellars (9125 Shallowford Road, Lewisville) for our annual Rosé @ Medaloni Cellars event as we celebrate women’s health with a fun evening of wine, food, and fashion! In addition, you’ll learn about the importance of mammography and early detection of breast cancer. The $10 admission fee includes a souvenir glass and first drink. Funds raised provide FREE Mammograms for women in need. Have fun at the silent auction and fashion show, feast at the food truck, enjoy live music, and more! A special thank you goes to the event sponsors — Forsyth WomanMagazine, Restoration MedSpa, Medaloni Cellars,WFBH FAcial Plastic Surgery,and Style Encore. Mark your calendar, don’t miss the fun!
Here at Wake Forest Baptist Health, there are several locations where you can schedule a 3D screening mammogram. These locations include WFBH Outpatient Imaging on Executive Park Blvd, WFBH Clemmons Medical Center, and WFBH Cancer Center.
Early detection saves lives so do yourself and your loved ones a favor and call for your appointment today, schedule it online at www.wakehealth.edu/imagingor text PINK to 484848