By: Chris Woolston from Reader's Digest magazine, October 2011
What You've Always Heard
Mammograms save lives. But after that simple statement comes a lot of arguing. The big question: Should women start getting mammograms at age 40 or wait until they turn 50? The National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society recommend starting at 40; the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says the evidence isn't strong enough for a blanket recommendation.
The Headlines Now
Mammography saves even more lives than we thought, according to the longest study ever (it followed more than 100,000 Swedish women for nearly 30 years). Its conclusion? Women whose doctors offered regular mammograms cut their risk of dying of breast cancer by 30 percent. "That's a really big deal," Loretta Lawrence, MD, chief of breast imaging at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, New York, told the Los Angeles Times. "It translates to 15,000 to 20,000 lives saved each year."