Breast Cancer Prevention Is Being Threatened by Mixed Messages on Mammograms

woman getting mammogramIt's October, so you know what that means ... It's officially Breast Cancer Awareness Month! And just when you perhaps (quietly, to yourself) started wondering if maaaybe we don't really need to worry as much about awareness -- or more specifically spreading knowledge -- anymore, think again! A new poll shows that there are unfortunately some serious mixed messages about breast cancer prevention.

Conducted for ABC, the findings reveal we're not all as well-versed on the facts as we could be.

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Specifically, 86 percent of women said mammograms should start at age 30 or 40, while 65 percent say they should be done annually. The facts: Both BreastCancer.org and the American Cancer Society recommend annual mammograms for all women 40 and older, regardless of their risk factors. And the results of a recent study suggest that earlier mammograms could save lives. So perhaps women aren't really as confused so much as they're getting mixed messages. ABC notes the United States Preventive Services Task Force says women should only screen every two years starting at age 50 ... but plenty of women's health care providers aren't following that. 

Still, these mixed messages are causing 1 out of eight women age 40 and older to skip their mammogram.

Apparently, although the "Angelina effect" has encouraged many women to research genetic testing or preventative mastectomies, only 50 percent of women said they'd discussed breast cancer with their doctors, down from 58 percent in 2007. And 46 percent expressed concern about their own risk, down from 61 percent in 2007. That's definitely unnerving, considering the confusion about screening and related topics.

Hopefully this poll serves as a wake-up call that we could all stand to spread awareness and for patients to stand up for the preventative care they deserve, challenge health care providers with their questions, and for all of us to work harder to get the facts straight.

How do you feel about these findings? When do you plan to/did you begin getting mammograms and how often?

 

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