Yearly Mammogram Debate


Story Updated: Feb 13, 2014

A new study on the benefits of yearly mammogram screenings may spark renewed debate over the issue. Canadian researchers say yearly mammography screenings may do no better than physical breast exams at preventing breast cancer deaths among middle-aged women.

A team of experts tracked data on more than 89,000 women between the ages of 40 and 59 over 25 years. Half the women underwent mammography screening once a year for 5 years while the other half the control group had none.

All women between 50 and 59 also had an annual physical breast exam as did women in the mammography group between the ages of 40 and 49. However, women between 40 and 49 in the control group only underwent a single physical exam, alongside normal care.

Ultimately investigators found almost no difference between the groups in terms of the number of breast cancer diagnoses or deaths. The authors concluded that an annual mammography screening might not, in fact, be helpful for middle-aged women living in developed countries.

The American Cancer Society currently recommends that women at average risk who are 40 and over get a mammogram every year. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force advises that average-risk women begin routine screening at age 50.

I'm Dr. Cindy Haines of HealthDay TV with the news doctors are reading health news that matters to you.

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