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Regular use of screening mammograms, followed by timely treatment when breast cancer is diagnosed, can help reduce the chances of dying from breast cancer. For women between the ages of 50 and 69, there is strong evidence that screening lowers this risk by 30 percent. For women in their 40s, the risk can be reduced by about 17 percent. For women aged 70 and older, mammography may be helpful, although firm evidence is lacking.
Percentage of women aged 40 and older, by racial/ethnic, geographic, and low-income groups, who reported having had a mammogram within the past 2 years.
Note: The most recent (2008) data are currently being reviewed. This section will be updated once research results have been published.
In 2005, 67 percent of women aged 40 and older had a mammogram within the past 2 years, a statistically significant drop from 70 percent in 2003. Among racial/ethnic groups, 59 percent of Hispanics (down from 65 percent in 2003), 65 percent of Blacks (down from 70 percent in 2003), and 68 percent of Whites (down from 71 percent in 2003) had a mammogram within the past 2 years, but these drops were not statistically significant. Among Asian women interviewed in California only, 74 percent had a mammogram in 2005, the same rate as in 2003.
Increase to 70 percent the proportion of women aged 40 and older who have had a mammogram within the past 2 years. This target was met in 2003, but the rate dropped to 67 percent, below the target, in 2005.
Women who are immigrants and those with lower incomes, with less education, without insurance, and lacking a usual health care provider are less likely to get screening mammograms.
Cost and knowledge barriers, including lack of insurance and lack of provider recommendations for regular mammograms, need to be removed.
While millions of women have had at least one screening mammogram, many women still have not. Also, even among those women who have had a recent screening mammogram, many do not have them on a regular basis. For women to benefit from mammography, regular screening is needed.
In November 2009, the USPSTF modified their recommendations for mammography screening for specific age groups. For women aged 50 to 74 years, biennial screening mammography was recommended – the previous recommendation was for women aged 40 to 69. Evidence for the decision to start regular, biennial screening mammography before the age of 50 years showed more harms and smaller benefits for this age group than for older women and therefore it was recommended that this should be a decision for individual patients and their physicians to make. For women 75 years or older, the USPSTF concluded that the current evidence is insufficient to make a recommendation.
Different organizations have generated different guidelines. To see guidelines issued by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and others, go to http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/USpstfix.htm. The Guide to Community Preventive Services, http://www.thecommunityguide.org/index.html , is a source of information about evidence-based approaches for enhancing cancer screening.