January 5th, 2011

Many Women Do Not Get Regular Mammograms


Despite professional recommendations and public support in favor of regular mammography, only about half of US women get an annual mammogram, even if they have insurance to cover the test. These results were presented at the 2010 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

The age at which mammographic screening should begin has recently been a subject of debate. The American Cancer Society continues to recommend that women at average risk of breast cancer begin mammographic screening at the age of 40. The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), however, recently recommended against routine mammographic screening of women in their 40s; instead, they recommend that screening begin at 50 and be performed every two years rather than annually.

Due to strong public reaction against the updated USPSTF recommendations, researchers became curious about how many women were actually getting regular mammograms. To determine mammography rates, researchers reviewed information on use of mammography from a database of more than 12 million people. Data used included mammography screening from January 2006 through December 2009. All participants had employer-provided insurance or were on Medicare.

  • In any given year, only 50% of women aged 40 to 85 years had a mammogram.
  • Of women aged 40 to 85, only 60% had two or more mammograms over four years.
  • Average annual mammography rates were as follows: 47% for women aged 40 to 49 years, 54% for women aged 50 to 64, and 45% for women aged 65 or older.

These findings indicate that many women do not receive regular mammograms, even if they are insured. Though this study did not investigate reasons why women may not get mammograms, it has been thought that discomfort from the test and lack of available screening centers may be among the reasons that some women do not undergo this screening.

Reference: Subar M, Lust SA, Lin W. Compliance with mammographic screening guidelines from an administrative claims database. Presented at the 33rd annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, December 8-12, 2010. Abstract S4-7.

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Tags: Breast Cancer, News, Screening/Prevention Breast Cancer, Uncategorized