Without a mammogram, women may not know they have breast cancer until it is advanced and much harder to treat. Mammograms can find breast cancer as much as two years before a woman or a doctor can feel a lump, according to the American Breast Cancer Foundation. Finding and treating it early, before it spreads helps 97 percent of women survive five years or more.
Research clearly shows that they offer substantial benefit to women in their 40s, ACS reports. But they are not fool-proof. A small percentage of cancers will be missed. Also it may show cells that look abnormal and a biopsy may be performed before it is determined there is no cancer.
But despite the limitations, they are the best tool we have to decrease suffering and death from breast cancer. Other tests are still in clinical trials, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
ACS also recommends a clinical breast exam as part of a periodic health exam about every 3 years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and over.
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