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Fear of Radiation Exposure May Be Lowering Mammography Numbers

A misunderstanding about the amount of radiation received during routine mammograms might be frightening patients from reporting for these potentially life-saving screenings. Researchers presented the findings of a study into this topic during the 2014 ARRS Annual Meeting in San Diego. The study revealed that not one of the subjects who participated was able to correctly identify the amount of radiation involved in a mammogram compared with other radiation-based screening procedures.

The study’s findings have led researchers to urge healthcare professionals to take the time to make sure women are accurately informed about the benefits of risks of mammography. The need, researchers say, is to make certain women understand the relative low-risks involved with low-dose ionizing radiation along with the profound benefits associated with early detection of breast cancer.

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in American women outside of skin cancer. An estimated one in eight women will face this diagnosis at some point during their lives. All told, about 231,000 new cases of invasive cancer are diagnosed each year in America with some 40,000 women dying from the disease annually.

Early screening for breast cancer is recommended for all women at high risk for the disease. Regular self-examinations and physician-led examinations are also critical for all women, regardless of risk. Routine mammography to detect this cancer as early as possible is generally recommended for women starting around the age of 40. MRI examinations may also be indicated for those at higher risk.

While the potential for exposure to radiation can be disconcerting, women will find that mammography delivers a very slight dose. The test, however, can give them a potentially life-saving edge should breast cancer be detected early so treatment can begin before the disease spreads. Women who are concerned about mammography or other testing procedures are urged to speak with their healthcare providers about the benefits and risks.

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