A visit to the doctor isn’t exactly everyone’s idea of a good time, especially when it involves their boobs getting squished by a machine. While the experience may be uncomfortable, it’s also literally a lifesaver. According to a new study published in the journal Cancer, mammogram screening has helped save up to 600,000 lives since 1989.
Researchers from the University of Colorado’s School of Medicine in Denver analyzed breast cancer mortality data U.S. women aged 40 to 84 years collected from 1990 to 2015. Mammograms—X-rays of the breast taken by a mammographer and reviewed by a radiologist—were successful in detecting early signs of breast cancer in hundreds of thousands of women, many of whom were then successfully treated. Mammography often finds a lump before it can be felt by hand during self-examination or clinical breast examination by a healthcare professional. Researchers estimate that between 305,000 and 483,000 lives were saved depending on how the data is interpreted. And using that as a baseline for calculating what that would mean through the end of 2018, that brings the count up to between 384,000 and 614,500.
Mammography often finds a lump before it can be felt by hand during self-examination or clinical breast examination by a healthcare professional.
“Our study provides evidence of just how effective the combination of early detection and modern breast cancer treatment have been in averting breast cancer deaths,” study author R. Edward Hendrick, Ph.D tells U.S. News & World Report of the findings.
So who needs a mammogram and how often? The American Cancer Society advises women between the ages of 45 to 54 should to get a mammogram every year, while women over 55 should get one every two years. Women can begin getting annual mammograms at age 40 if they choose, though it’s definitely something people should discuss with their doctor for specific guidance, particularly if they have a family history of breast cancer.
Mammograms are a major reason why breast cancer isn’t as deadly as it used to be. A diagnosis is absolutely not the end. And the earlier you know, the better.
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