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Study shows few women get regular mammograms

Study shows few women get regular mammograms

After more than a decade of urging by doctors that women over 40 should receive mammograms yearly, few actually do so, according to a large cancer study. Only 6% of women who received a mammogram in 1992 received mammograms yearly for the next 10 years, according to a study of 72,417 women of all ages at Massachusetts General Hospital, the largest look at mammography to date. The American Cancer Society recommends that all women 40 and older receive a mammogram and a breast exam yearly. Younger women are encouraged to receive a breast exam every three years. Lesbians are also urged to get regular mammograms as some studies have shown them to be at a higher risk for some forms of breast cancer. Yet most of the women in the study, which appears in Monday's edition of the journal Cancer, received only five exams during the 10-year-time period--half the recommended number. "I think it's very likely this is a widespread phenomenon in America, the failure of women to return promptly to get mammograms," said James Michaelson, study author and assistant professor of pathology at the hospital and Harvard Medical School. "Prompt annual return is really important to get the maximum life-sparing benefit of screening mammography." Poor women, those without health insurance, and those from nonwhite racial and ethnic groups had particularly low rates of receiving mammograms, but no group of women used mammography often, Michaelson said. Mammograms remain the best method for detecting breast cancer when it's most treatable, the Institute of Medicine said earlier this month.Women who screen annually and are diagnosed with breast cancer die from the disease half as often as those who do not get annual exams, Michaelson said. "We have a problem in mammography in this country--the message still hasn't gotten out that mammography will save lives," said Herman Kattlove, a medical editor with the American Cancer Society who was not involved with the study. "We just all need to do a better job." (AP)

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