Over a third of female respondents say they just “haven’t gotten around to” routine breast cancer screening.
COLUMBIA, Md. — A new survey from MedStar Health finds that most American women over age 40 are not screening for breast cancer through annual mammograms. According to the results, 59% of respondents say they forgo the recommended routine exam on a yearly basis. Almost a quarter (23%) say they’ve never had a mammogram.
These results come as breast cancer diagnoses continue to increase by about 0.5% every year, according to the American Cancer Society, including a nearly 3% increase in younger women under age 40. In May, the United States Preventative Task Force (USPSTF), one of the nation’s leading influencers of breast cancer screening guidelines, lowered its recommended age for mammograms from age 50 to 40.
MedStar Health breast cancer experts encourage women, starting as early as age 30, to talk to their doctor about their own personal breast cancer risk and begin developing a plan to start mammograms as soon as possible. This becomes even more important as women get older.
“Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting women, but deaths attributed to the disease are decreasing. This is in large part due to early detection from routine screening examinations and better treatments delivered through a multidisciplinary approach,” said Judy H. Song, MD, chief of Breast Imaging at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. “Routine screening examinations can start with mammography and potentially include ultrasound and breast MRI. We recognize that not all populations currently have equal outcomes, and we at MedStar Health are actively working to reduce those disparities to save even more lives.”
Women surveyed by MedStar Health said their top reasons for not yet getting annual mammograms include simply not getting around to it (34%), having a normal mammogram in the past (21%), and not having a family history of breast cancer (17%).
Additional survey insights include:
Awareness of breast cancer symptoms:
- The majority of respondents correctly identified common breast cancer symptoms, such as a lump in breast (67%), a family history (60%), and breast pain (59%).
Lack of knowledge about risk factors:
- 62% did not know that age is a risk factor.
- 56% did not know that cigarette smoking is a risk factor.
Male respondents and breast cancer awareness:
- 72% believe that breast cancer is a risk for men, while only 34% correctly identified that 1% of breast cancers diagnosed in the U.S. are found in males.
- 9% say they believe that men do not get breast cancer.
“Everyone’s breast cancer risk is different. Educating yourself about your own risk is key to catching it early,” said Stephanie Johnson, PA-C, director of the MedStar Health High-Risk Breast Cancer Program and a breast cancer survivor herself. “The American College of Radiology recommends that every woman calculate her risk with the Tyrer-Cuzick risk model at age 30 and about every five years after. This model considers at least eight factors for risk. From there, you and your provider can create an individualized risk management plan. If you are at high risk, or even average risk, regular testing and screening may be necessary, but it’s so important to take this time for your health and wellness.”
For more information about breast cancer risk management and screening, visit the MedStar Health High-Risk Breast Cancer Program.