CDC: Fewer women getting mammograms
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a report that indicates that fewer American women are getting mammograms. Experts fear that this will lead to a rise in death rates from breast cancer if the drop in screenings continues, according to a report summary from the American Cancer Society.
In women between the ages of 50 and 69, regular mammograms can reduce breast cancer deaths by 20 percent to 35 percent, and by nearly 20 percent in women in their 40s, according to the CDC.
The mammogram use statistics come from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System that conducts phone surveys of women in this country. The most recent numbers are from the years 2000 and 2005, and the results found that the percentage of women 40 and older who reported having a mammogram in the past two years was 76.4 percent in 2000. That number dropped to 74.6 percent by 2005.
"Although a 1.8 percent decline in mammography screening from 2000 to 2005 may not seem like much, it means that in 2005 about 1.5 million fewer women took advantage of getting this proven life-saving test," said Len Lichtenfeld, MD, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, in a released statement regarding the report findings. "We know that thousands of these women have a breast cancer that has not been diagnosed. By not finding that cancer at the earliest opportunity, these women risk having larger, more advanced cancers when they are ultimately discovered. They also risk poorer treatment outcomes and survival as a result of their delay," he added.
The CDC report does not investigate the causes of the decline.
"Certainly lack of access to healthcare and lack of health insurance play a key role in screening rates for all cancers, including breast cancer," Lichtenfeld said. "Too few women are able to take advantage of programs such as the CDC's National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, which helps women in need gain access to mammography and cervical cancer screening."
A shortage of radiologists and facilities where mammograms are available may also be a factor, the society said.