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How Do Breast Cancer Screenings Improve Health Outcomes? Does It Truly Improve Health?

Breast cancer screening is examining a woman's breasts for cancer prior to the onset of any symptoms or indicators of cancer. Even though it cannot prevent it from happening, breast cancer screening can help discover breast cancer early, when it is simpler to treat.

breast cancer screening is important for women

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What is the screening rate for breast cancer?

All women, regardless of their race/ethnicity or risk of breast cancer, should be screened for breast cancer using mammography. Some women are less likely than others to get mammograms.

black women getting screened for breast cancer

Breast cancer screening inequalities in the United States can be attributed to a variety of factors:

Health Insurance's Role in Getting Screening Mammography

Mammograms are far less common among women without health insurance than among those who do.

In 2018, among women aged between 50-74:

  • 39 percent of those with no health insurance had a mammogram in the past 2 years

  • 75 percent of those with health insurance had a mammogram in the past 2 years

Although a lack of health insurance is the primary cause of breast cancer screening disparities in the United States, other factors also play a role. Even among insured women in 2018, just 75% had a recent mammogram.

Race, Ethnicity, and Breast Cancer Mortality

According to the same data, black women have similar rates of screening mammography use as white women, Hispanic women, and Asian American women.

However, Black women had a greater rate of dying from breast cancer. Between 2014-2018, Black women had a 39 percent higher breast cancer mortality rate than white women.

Other barriers to breast cancer screening

  • Low education level

  • Lack of knowledge of breast cancer risks and screening methods

  • Lack of access to care

  • Fear of receiving bad news or experiencing discomfort from the mammography

Many obstacles may prevent some women from getting breast cancer screenings. Increased access, awareness, and sensitivity may help remove some barriers.

What are the benefits of breast cancer screening?

Almost every test or process has both benefits and limitations. Before having any test, you should be aware of them so that you can make an informed decision that is best for you. Even though no screening test is 100% accurate, science shows that getting regular mammograms lowers the risk of dying from breast cancer.

There are many benefits to breast cancer screening:

  1. Mammography can help detect early-stage breast cancers that may not be detectable by physical examination.

  2. Mammography helps to decrease the risk of death from breast cancer.

  3. Mammography can help reduce the need for treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

  4. Mammography may also increase life expectancy. While the size of this increase is unknown, it is clear that there are many benefits to getting screened for breast cancer.

how breast cancer screenings improve health outcomes

The limitations of breast cancer screenings:

  1. Especially in younger women, a mammogram may show that you have breast cancer even though you don't have it. This is called a "false positive." False-positive mammogram results mean that more tests need to be done, which takes time and can cause unnecessary stress.

  2. Mammography may miss breast cancer even if it is present, which is known as a "false negative".

  3. "Overdiagnosis" is another potential disadvantage of screening. This means discovering something on a mammogram that is breast cancer or has the potential to become breast cancer but is such a low-risk sort of tumor that if left alone would never have caused any health problems.

  4. Mammograms are X-ray tests that expose the breasts to radiation. Even if each test has a relatively little amount of radiation emitted, the cumulative effect is significant.

What is the recommended age to start mammogram screenings?

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that women start getting mammograms at age 45. Mammograms can often find changes in the breast that could be cancer years before physical symptoms develop. There is a small chance of overdiagnosis with screening mammograms, but it is important to remember that the benefits of early detection usually outweigh this risk.