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Most Women in Their 40s Will Continue to get Mammograms

Posted Dec 03 2009 6:00am
Now that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) says that most women do not need mammograms until they are 50, will American women heed the USPSTF’s advice? A recent survey indicates that over two-thirds of women aged 40 to 49 say they will continue an annual mammography regimen, and some will do so even if they have to pay for the tests themselves.

In an online poll conducted between November 19 and 23 by Harris Interactive on behalf of LifeBridge Health, 69 percent of U.S. women aged 40 to 49 say they will get an annual mammogram despite the new USPSTF recommendations. Of these women, 48 percent will get mammograms if their insurance plans pay for them, and 21 percent say they will get them even if they have to pay out-of-pocket for the test. Only 5 percent said that they would not be getting mammograms in their 40s because of the USPSTF’s recommendations, and 16 percent said that they would not get mammograms regardless of the new recommendations. Fewer than 1 percent declined to answer the question, and about 1 out of every 10 women was unsure what she would do. Experts are concerned that the new USPSTF mammography recommendations may give women an excuse not to get regular screening mammograms.

“Practice guidelines that postpone mammographic screening and eradicate self and clinical examinations will have detrimental impacts on early diagnosis and cancer survival,” says Dawn Leonard, M.D., breast surgeon and medical director of the Herman & Walter Samuelson Breast Care Center at Northwest Hospital. Dr. Leonard sees many younger women who have breast cancer, particularly African American women who have a higher risk of getting breast cancer at an earlier age than is often expected by the medical community. While overall, the incidence of breast cancer in African American populations is slightly lower than in Caucasian populations, African Americans have a higher breast cancer mortality rate than other racial groups. When detected at Stage 1 or earlier, breast cancer survival rates are quite high – up to 98 percent, explains Dr. Leonard. She adds that mammography has the potential to detect breast cancers long before they are large enough to be palpable or felt by the woman through self breast exam.

“The medical community and the advocacy community have worked tirelessly since the ’70s to empower women to be more aware of their breast health needs and to make choices that improve breast cancer survival,” Dr. Leonard says. “The recent USPSTF recommendations appear to be a step in the wrong direction.”

The survey, which was conducted between November 19 and 23, 2009, very soon after the USPSTF’s November 16 announcement, polled 261 women between the ages of 40 and 49.

Survey Methodology
Harris Interactive® fielded the study on behalf of LifeBridge Health on November 19 and 20, 2009, via its QuickQuerySM online omnibus service, interviewing a nationwide sample of 261 U.S. women between the ages of 40 and 49. Data were weighted using propensity score weighting to be representative of the total U.S. adult population on the basis of region, age within gender, education, household income, race/ethnicity and propensity to be online. No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated; a full methodology is available.

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