Leading SA: UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Medical Oncologist discusses breast cancer, mammogram screening guidelines

SAN ANTONIO – Every year, breast cancer is diagnosed to hundreds of thousands of people in the United States and remains the second leading cause of cancer death among women. Today we are talking about new guidelines just published regarding mammogram screenings.

Dr. Virgina Kaklamani, Medical Oncologist at UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson, joined Leading SA to break it all down.

So the new guidelines recommend us doing screening mammograms starting at the age of 40 until the age of 74, every two years… It’s important because previously the guidelines said that we should start screening at the age of 50, which the committee decided based on some recent data, is probably a little too old for us because we’re having many breast cancers being diagnosed at younger ages,” Dr. Kaklamani said.

Dr. Kaklamani explained that this earlier screening can help save lives.

Our studies have shown that there is up to a 43% decrease in mortality by doing mammograms starting at the age of 40. We’re recognizing that younger women are being diagnosed. And so if we’re able to diagnose that breast cancer at an earlier stage, we have a much higher likelihood of curing it,” Dr. Kaklamani said.

Additionally, she said if you or your loved ones go to get a mammogram, breast density may play a factor.

“It’s now FDA mandated that every mammogram will give us information about our breast density. And we know that women that have dense breasts have a higher risk of breast cancer. We also know that mammograms may not be as effective in dense breasts because the tissue is hard to see on a mammogram. So the guidelines say that we don’t have enough data to recommend ultrasounds or MRIs in those women, and we really don’t. But this is where I would suggest that you talk to your radiologist when you have the mammogram and have a combined decision as to whether you should potentially have an ultrasound or even an MRI,” Dr. Kaklamani said.

These are the general guidelines, but if you are at higher risk, you should start screening earlier, suggested Dr. Kaklamani.

All of these guidelines are for women that have a general risk of having breast cancer, not a high risk. So if you have a family history, if you have a specific mutation in a gene, so change in a gene that puts you at risk of getting breast cancer, these guidelines do not apply to you. Then we have different guidelines that recommend starting mammograms as young as 30 and MRIs as young as 25. So that’s where, again, discussing with your physician, getting a family history, understanding what your personal risk is, will help with screening guidelines for you,” Dr. Kaklamani said.

Early detection can save your or your loved one’s life.

“We know that early detection is the key to curing it. So please go have your mammograms again. The guidelines, starting at the age of 40, every two years until the age of 74. It saves lives,” Dr. Kaklamani said.

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