Mammography Remains Gold Standard for Breast Cancer Detection

Friday, March 15, 2013 - 7:29am
Director, Mammography Center

It may not be perfect, but right now mammography is the best test we have for routine screening of breast cancer. There is a lot of chatter online and in the public about whether other tests, such as thermography, can be used in place of an annual mammogram. However, there is no solid scientific research showing that these alternative screening options reduce risk of death from breast cancer.

Mammography remains the only test that has been demonstrated in controlled, randomized clinical trials to reduce the risk of death from breast cancer. Once a woman reaches the age of 40, she should begin annual mammograms. 

Concerned about the risks of screening?

We understand that some women are concerned about the risks associated with the testing. Most of these stem from the fact that a mammogram is an x-ray. However, the radiation dose is very low and has actually decreased over the years as the technology has improved.

Furthermore, studies have shown that the benefits of mammography outweigh the risks. Learn more about the benefits versus risks of mammography, and don’t be afraid to discuss your concerns with your doctor.

Screening for Women at High Risk

We do know that there are certain risk factors that increase a person’s risk of developing breast cancer, including:

  • More than two close relatives with breast cancer
  • A relative diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age
  • A family or personal history of a gene mutation (e.g., BRCA, p53, PTEN)
  • A personal history of lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) or atypical cells on breast biopsy
  • Multiple breast biopsies
  • Prior radiation to the chest
  • A personal history of increased breast density
  • A personal or family history of ovarian cancer

For these women, additional testing may be recommended in addition to mammography, such as MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging. But, again, mammography remains an important part of breast cancer screening in the high-risk population, as well.

It’s important that if you think you could be at high risk that you have a conversation with your doctor right away about your screening needs, which may include beginning screening at a younger age.

If you’re concerned about your risk level, you may also want to inquire about your eligibility for the High Risk Breast Cancer Clinic at Roswell Park. Eligible patients receive comprehensive risk assessment, risk-reduction counseling, educational resources and access to prevention trials.

You can use our simple online breast cancer risk assessment questionnaire to help assess your risk level and eligibility for the program.