Two studies published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine shed new light on the often-vexing question of when women should get mammograms. We discuss the findings.

Karla Kerlikowske, professor of medicine at the UCSF School of Medicine and a physician at the UCSF-affiliated San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center
Lisa Aliferis, blogger for KQED's State of Health blog

  • Noelle

    Isn’t ultrasound more accurate, especially when there is dense breast tissue?
    Most insurance companies will not routinely pay for ultrasound, though.

    • Chakmool

       Ultrasound is highly operator-dependent as done traditionally and as such has variable accuracy and significant limitations; there are newer ‘automated’ ultrasound units that appear to have better, more reproducible results, but they aren’t yet widely available. MRI is the best screening test for women with dense breasts, but most insurance co’s use highly restrictive criteria to determine whether it will be covered. There isn’t, unfortunately, a good answer to the dense breast quandary right now.

      -radiologist, Santa Cruz area

  • Carol

    I had breast cancer at 42. My breast were very dense.

    Even though I had a large lump – a fast growing cancer nothing showed up on a Mamagram. An ultra sound found the lump the same day that a managram missed it.
    Why don’t people with small dense breasts get ultrasounds???
    An Ultrasound saved my life.

  • Walton

    I think that prevention should be mentioned in every discussion of breast cancer.  Particularly vitamin D levels of 52 ng/dl.

  • Kathleen31

    Speaker is assuming all women have access to individual counseling and risk assessment sufficient to make an informed individual decision. Also, do you seriously think insurance companies will pay for mammograms for younger women if they think don’t have to?

  • guest

    The discussion has covered many of the issues related to early detection and screening for breast cancer — a discussion that often is strongly skewed by the tragic stories of those who have lost friends and relative to breast cancer.

    Without diminishing that pain at all, it would be helpful to focus not on increase risks by age or procdeure — two-fold, three-fold, etc. But on measures that reflect the number of cases averted or live saved per 1000 screenings. With relatively low risk diseases, of which breast cancer is one, these numbers would more accurately reflect the relatively low yield from these screening tests.

    Perhaps that would be reassuring….

  • Linda Sepeda

    I also had breast cancer at 42.  It did show up on a mammogram because of calcifications.  I’m very glad of that because at age 60, my remaining breast is still dense.  At that time, ultrasound wasn’t done for breast cancer screening, although I had an ultrasound on a non-cancerous cyst.

  • MsRHA

    Who/What organizations funded this new study?

  • pontifikate

    I’d like to know to what extent the radiation I’ve been receiving (by having yearly mammograms since I’m 40 — for more than 20 years) has made me more likely to get breast cancer. Should women in this situation –in their 60’s now — get mammograms every two years now?

    • The government recommends every two years to age 74. The American Cancer Society recommends annually.

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