The war against breast cancer is slowly being won.
But more can be done.
Especially if women follow through with wellness strategies like getting mammograms.
That is the message from Debra A. Pratt, MD, Medical Director of the Breast Center at Fairview Hospital, and Cathy Graham, MD, FACS, Medical Director The Breast Health Center St. John Medical Center.
“From 1950 to 2007 the National Health Statistics from the CDC show an overall 28% mortality reduction in breast cancer,” reports Dr. Pratt. “But since 2000 we have seen an overall reduction in the use of mammograms with the greatest reduction in women in their 40’s.”
18 per cent of breast cancers now diagnosed occur in women in their 40’s.
“All women should have a baseline mammogram done at the age of 40,” said Dr. Graham. “Or even earlier if there is a family history. Any woman with a first degree relative who had breast cancer should have an examination at 10 years earlier than the onset of the first degree relative age at diagnosis.”
Dr. Pratt, speaking at the recent Triumph for the Cure Golf Outing at Westwood Country Club to raise funds for mammograms at the Breast Center at Fairview Hospital, said there are four reasons why mammography exams have declined. Women:
-didn’t know they needed one,
– were too busy,
-or just forgot appointment and never rescheduled.
“From the age of 40-on it needs to be done annually,” said Joyce Foristell, breast health coordinator at SJMC. “If you are in your 70s or 80s, you still need one because risk increases as you age.”
Dr. Graham said recommendations for annual or biannual exams are critical to early detection. “It is better to set the bar for early detection very low. If you set it too high, you will miss early cancer detections. We are seeing breast cancers at much younger ages that are much more aggressive.”
Dr. Pratt reports that there has been a 43 per cent reduction in breast cancer in women ages 45-54, and a 51 per cent reduction in women ages 35-44 largely because of preemptive, proactive diagnosis and wellness strategies.
But mammograms are only effective if women get them.
Women should conduct self-examinations regularly and report any suspicions to their physician. “In the woman who feels a lump, even if she is under the mammogram age, they need to come in for an exam,” said Dr. Graham. “Cancer is not one disease. Five distinctly behaving diseases can be identified.” . Early detection can lead to the best, least invasive treatment protocols.
Patients anxious about costs should call their Breast Health Center to discuss options. “We have ways of working with patients. We don’t want to prevent anyone from getting a mammogram,” said Foristell. The Breast Health Center at SJMC even has evening and Saturday hours for those who work. Please phone 440-827-5459.
The Breast Center at Fairview Hospital offers mammograms for uninsured women through grant money from the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Please phone 216.476.9012.