October is coming to an end and with it an end to another Breast Cancer Awareness Month. How successful was this 2015 month of pink awareness? Perhaps this year more than most, the results were decidedly mixed.
The message that early detection saves lives was out there in many formats and for this we are grateful.
- If we have been successful in convincing one more woman that screening for breast cancer with yearly mammography can lead to successful treatment and improved survival, we are grateful.
- If we have educated women to know their biggest risk for breast cancer is being female and getting older, we are grateful.
- If the message that 75% of women with a new diagnosis of breast cancer will have no high risk factors has been understood, we are grateful.
We are grateful for the focus this month brings to a subject that touches all of our lives.
Tempering our enthusiasm is the concern that the positive messages of this month may have been overshadowed by confusion- confusion created by the new “guidelines” published by the American Cancer Society. Did we really gain anything more than confusion from a new conflicting and not universally accepted set of guidelines? Here’s where we stand:
- We stand by the recommendations of the American College of Radiology and direct you to the site: End the Confusion from the Society of Breast Imaging if you have questions.
- We recommend annual screening mammography starting at age 40 for all women unless you have high risk factors for which screening may start earlier or include other studies like breast MRI.
- Please note, the American Cancer Society guidelines also support starting screening at age 40 “if they wish to do so.” We hope you will all wish to do so in order to save the most lives possible.
- We recommend screening annually because just as science is not yet able to predict who will develop breast cancer, we are also unable to predict the aggressiveness of the cancer. Some grow rapidly, and we have all as breast imagers seen sizable tumors develop in less than 12 months in women of all ages.
And so, as another Halloween approaches, we are grateful for the spotlight of October on breast cancer. Our dream is that one day soon there will no longer be a need for this month of awareness, that breast cancer will no longer be a threat to women’s – and men’s- lives. Together we can get there!
(Image credit: “Pinktober pink october breast cancer awareness” by © Nevit Dilmen. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)