Mammograms should start at 40, not 50

Mammograms are back in the news.  It seems that although a government panel issued a ruling in 2009 that mammograms should be pushed back to 50 years of age to start, new research shows that delaying the start of mammograms puts a lot of women at risk for not being diagnosed with breast cancer early. Early detection is extremely vital in the fight against this disease because the earlier that breast cancer is detected, the more likely that the patient can receive treatment that completely eradicates the cancer from the body as well as the more likely that the recurrence of the cancer will not happen.


You hear that? That is the sound of all of us breast cancer survivors (and their loved ones) saying a collective... "duh" in our heads. Well damn. We all knew that didn't we? Don't we already know and understand that the earlier that breast cancer is detected the better the treatment options? The less time that a woman will spend in treatment? The less intrusive her treatment options are? The less likely she will lose a breast or have to undergo chemotherapy or radiation treatment?

Sigh. I swear some folks are just stuck on stupid. For real. Most women who are diagnosed with breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease. That is critically important because if you do have a history, then your baseline mammogram will likely start approximately 10 years before the age of your relative's diagnosis. If I had a daughter, because I was diagnosed at 39, her mammograms should start at 29 so that her medical team can know what her normal is and be able to track any changes and catch any cancer (if it happens) much earlier than my cancer was detected. But, without a family history of cancer -- and most of us do not have that -- the general age guidelines are critical. So, the difference between 40 and 50 could be the difference between stage 1 and stage 3. Between a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. And in some cases, it will be the difference between living after breast cancer and dying because of it.

I just don't understand how so many people who claim to be in this fight against breast cancer can come out with suggestions that seem to say... money matters more than the potential lives saved.

My life matters. Every woman is at risk for breast cancer. Every woman. If raising the age to start mammograms causes even a few women to be delayed in learning that they have this disease... it is too high a price to pay. Why don't people understand that?

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