Screening Tests for Women Archive

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Increased mammography may find more breast cancers without lowering deaths

Ideally, screening mammography detects small breast cancers so that they can be removed before they grow, metastasize, and kill. To tell whether screening is succeeding, researchers from Harvard and Dartmouth looked at the rates of mammography, the diagnosis of small breast cancers, large breast cancers, and breast cancer deaths in 16 million women 40 or older in the United States from 2000 through 2010. They found that when mammography rates increased 10%, the number of small cancers detected went up 25%, and the number of large cancers increased by 7%. There was no decline in breast cancer deaths. They concluded that mammography is finding—and women are being treated for—small cancers that may not progress to invasive disease or metastasize to other parts of the body.

The results, which were published online July 6, 2015, by JAMA Internal Medicine, echo those of earlier findings. They underscore a dilemma facing women and their doctors: To get annual mammograms and risk being treated for a tumor that may never become harmful, or have mammograms less frequently and risk missing a cancer until it is larger. The U.S. Preventive Services Task force recommends having a mammogram every one to two years for women ages 50 to 79. The American Cancer Society suggests annual mammograms beginning at age 40. You may want to discuss your personal risk profile, and your preferences, with your doctor.

Should you be tested for weak bones?

Image: Thinkstock

Men also get osteoporosis—but consider your risk factors before deciding to have a bone-strength test.

Men's and women's bodies differ in plenty of ways, but we all have bones, and with aging they may lose some of their strength and leave us more vulnerable to dangerous fractures of the hip or spine. Osteoporosis is not exclusively a women's health issue.

Abdominal aortic aneurysm: When you need this one-time test

Family history or past smoking both point to higher risk for this potentially fatal condition.

How many "lifesaving" medical tests have you been offered lately? One frequently marketed to older men is an ultrasound of the abdominal aorta, the large artery below the heart that feeds the lower body. A bulging weak spot there—an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA)—could eventually rupture, and that is usually fatal.

Younger women get inadequate treatment for heart disease, survey finds

Younger women with heart disease may be unaware of their condition and may not recognize the symptoms of a heart attack, according to a report in the March 2015 issue of Circulation. The finding came from a survey of women under 55 who had survived heart attacks.

Researchers from the Translational Research Investigating Underlying Disparities in Acute Myocardial Infarction Patients' Health Status (TRIUMPH) study interviewed 30 women ages 30 to 55 who were hospitalized for heart attacks. They asked the women about their risk factors, the preventive measures they took the symptoms they experienced, and the treatment they sought and received.

Good news about early-stage breast cancer for older women

Image: Thinkstock

Although the chance of developing breast cancer increases after age 60, the likelihood of dying from it is low.

If you're like most women, you consider the possibility of learning you have breast cancer every time you have a mammogram. But breast cancer probably doesn't seem as scary as it did when you were younger, because there has been so much good news about breast cancer in the last 20 years—improvements in mammography, advances in surgery and reconstruction, and drugs that are more effective and less toxic.

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