Is Saving Lives Through Mammography Screening Controversial?

The following post was contributed by R. Edward Hendrick, PhD, FACR, a member of the ACR Commission on Breast Imaging.

Hendrick_R_EdwardMedia coverage of screening mammography might lead you to question its effectiveness  —  that is, its ability to save women’s lives. Yet year by year, deaths due to breast cancer deaths continue to drop.

The National Cancer Institute’s SEER database recently updated cancer death rates through 2014. My recent analysis of those data shows that the breast cancer death rate has fallen 38 percent from 1990 through 2014. This continuing downward trend started shortly after increased mammography use began in the mid-1980s. The resulting decline amounts to 274,765 breast cancer deaths averted since 1990 — including 22,054 in 2014 alone.

There’s no controversy here: Regular mammography screening and improved therapies are undoubtedly responsible for the decline in breast cancer deaths. Screening mammography can detect cancer early when it’s most treatable and can be treated less invasively. This also helps preserve quality of life.SEER Data BC Deaths Decline Graph

So, please don’t let your patients go away with the impression that screening for breast cancer doesn’t matter or that the short-term anxiety of waiting for test results somehow negates the lifesaving effect of screening mammography.

Screening mammography continues to save lives and preserve the quality of life every day, every week, every year.

Take advantage of the resources that the American College of Radiology and Society of Breast Imaging make available.

How do you relay to your patients the proven effectiveness of regular mammography screening at reducing breast cancer deaths?

 Please share your thoughts in the comments section below and/or join the discussion on Engage (login required).

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