A recent survey conducted by healthcare provider MedStar Health has shed light on a concerning trend in breast cancer screening among American women over the age of 40. The findings reveal that a staggering 59% of respondents are forgoing the recommended annual mammogram, with 23% admitting they have never had a mammogram.

These findings come at a time when breast cancer diagnoses are on the rise, increasing by approximately 0.5% annually, as reported by the American Cancer Society. Furthermore, there has been a nearly 3% increase in breast cancer diagnoses among younger women under the age of 40. In response to this concerning trend, the United States Preventative Task Force recently lowered its recommended age for mammograms from 50 to 40.

MedStar Health is urging women to take proactive steps in managing their breast health. Experts recommend initiating discussions with their healthcare providers about personal breast cancer risk as early as age 30, and to commence mammograms as soon as possible. This recommendation becomes even more crucial as women age.

Judy H. Song, chief of breast imaging at Washington, D.C.-based MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, emphasizes the importance of early detection and comprehensive care, stating, “Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting women, but we are making progress in reducing deaths due to early detection and advanced treatments. Routine screening examinations, including mammography, ultrasound, and breast MRI, can save lives. We recognize the need to address disparities in healthcare outcomes and are actively working toward this goal.”

The survey also identified common reasons why women delay or avoid mammograms, including time constraints (34%), prior normal mammogram results (21%), and a lack of family history of breast cancer (17%).

The survey uncovered additional insights, such as:

  • Most respondents correctly identified common breast cancer symptoms, including a breast lump (67%), family history (60%), and breast pain (59%).
  • There is a lack of awareness regarding risk factors, with 62% not recognizing age as a risk factor and 56% unaware of cigarette smoking’s association with breast cancer.
  • Regarding breast cancer awareness among men, 72% of respondents believe that breast cancer is a risk for men, while only 34% correctly identified that 1% of breast cancers diagnosed in the U.S. affect males.

Stephanie Johnson, director of the MedStar Health High-Risk Breast Cancer Program and a breast cancer survivor herself, emphasizes the importance of individualized risk management. 

“Understanding your personal risk is essential,” Johnson says. “The American College of Radiology recommends risk assessment with the Tyrer-Cuzick model at age 30 and periodically thereafter. Your provider can help create a personalized risk management plan, emphasizing regular testing and screening if necessary. Prioritizing your health and well-being is crucial.”