Three Things Every Woman Should Know

Doctor and Patient Mammography 


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American Cancer Society Provides Guidance and Information for Women Over 40

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NEW YORK, NY – Sept. 10, 2012 – One group says “women don’t need an annual mammogram until they are 50,” another organization says “no, you need an annual mammogram beginning at age 40,” then toss in the latest news report “women need to know if they have dense breasts,” no wonder women across American are confused more than ever. What does the science say? What is the right thing to do?

The American Cancer Society continues to pore over research study after research study, weeding the good science from the bad, before making any recommendation to women.

Get an annual mammogram

Most would agree, mammography is not perfect; but it’s the best tool we have for detecting breast cancer at its earliest, most treatable stage.
Even though only about one woman in 69 will develop breast cancer in her 40’s, delaying screening until age 50 and screening only every two years means that some women will die needlessly. The American Cancer Society acknowledges the limitations of mammography, but overall it works pretty well. There is no doubt that screening has contributed to a significant reduction in breast cancer deaths. That’s why the ACS recommends a screening mammogram once a year after age 40.

Exams available, even to those with no health insurance

In New York and New Jersey, screening is available to all women, age 40 and older, regardless of health insurance coverage. Uninsured women are encouraged to call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 or New York State Cancer Services Program at 1-866-442-2262 to learn about free screening in their community. Under the Affordable Care Act, all Americans joining a new health care plan can receive recommended preventive services like mammograms with no out-of-pocket costs, and all will have access after the law fully takes effect in 2014.

What does it mean if I have dense breasts?

A law was just signed in New York requiring radiologists to notify their patients if they have dense breasts. If a woman learns she has dense breasts, what does that mean?

It’s important for a woman to understand that high breast density increases the risk for breast cancer and makes it more difficult to detect with a mammogram. Think of it as trying to find a snowball during while snow is falling. Does it mean a radiologist won’t be able to see a small cancer if one is present? No. It just means it’s more difficult, and you may be called in for additional imaging.

Classifying a woman’s breast density involves some level of subjective clinical judgment, and two women with similar breast density may receive different density classifications. It’s even possible for a woman’s density classification to change from year to year even if her level of breast density has remained constant.

That said, dense breasts or no, mammography is not perfect. Sometimes the imaging tool simply does not pick up a small cancer. This is why it’s important for women to get to know their breasts and report any changes immediately to their doctor – even if they just had a mammogram a couple of months ago.

Additional links:

American Cancer Society Guide to Breast Cancer and Early Detection
Information for you or someone you know about breast cancer treatments
Fight to end breast cancer at a Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event near you


About the American Cancer Society
The American Cancer Society combines an unyielding passion with nearly a century of experience to save lives and end suffering from cancer. As a global grassroots force of more than three million volunteers, we fight for every birthday threatened by every cancer in every community. We save lives by helping people stay well by preventing cancer or detecting it early; helping people get well by being there for them during and after a cancer diagnosis; by finding cures through investment in groundbreaking discovery; and by fighting back by rallying lawmakers to pass laws to defeat cancer and by rallying communities worldwide to join the fight. As the nation’s largest non-governmental investor in cancer research, contributing more than $3.4 billion, we turn what we know about cancer into what we do. As a result, more than 11 million people in America who have had cancer and countless more who have avoided it will be celebrating birthdays this year. To learn more about us or to get help, call us any time, day or night, at 1-800-227-2345 or visit