A new, large-scale Swedish trial following more than 133,000 women for nearly 30 years has found mammograms reduce breast cancer deaths even more than experts once believed. Researchers say they found the benefits of the screenings become clearer over time.
“The big news is that if one considers the long-term effects on breast cancer mortality, the absolute benefit of screening in terms of number of lives saved is considerably greater than previously thought,” says Stephen Duffy, the study’s lead author and professor of cancer screening at Queen Mary, University of London.
While other studies had previously found that for every 2,500 women aged 40-49 who have a mammogram one death is prevented, this study suggests a death is prevented for every 1,000 to 1,500 mammograms performed.
At the end of the study, investigators identified a 30% drop in breast cancer deaths overall in the study group invited to have a mammogram every two to three years (depending on their ages).
So what does that mean for you?
Generally, it means your annual screening mammogram is still a good idea if you’re a woman over age 40. Take it from FMH’s Fellowship-Trained Breast Surgeon Dr. Susan Bahl:
This study means getting your mammogram is even more important than the scientific community ever knew. So those few less-than-comfortable moments each year are worth even more when it comes to your long-term health and wellbeing.
Yes, I know it’s not October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month), but you can get a mammogram during the other 11 months of the year, too. Check your calendar and see when you’re due for your screening; then pick up the phone or go online and make your appointment.
It’s important, and this study highlights the fact that it truly could save your life.