Breast cancer survivor agrees with new mammogram recommendations

Published: Jun. 2, 2023 at 4:46 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Charlow Peterson says she knew what a mammogram was.

But at 47 she says she didn’t think the test could benefit her. She was healthy, ate right, and exercised. But she also didn’t have insurance which also impacted her decision.

But she says she found two lumps by her sternum, and to get answers she turned to the Mammovan.

“They asked me when I would like to come in,” says Peterson. “And I said well, I have a little problem. I said I don’t have any insurance. First thing she says don’t you worry about it. You just get down here.”

Ten days after getting the mammogram, she got a call at work.

“They said I am positive for breast cancer,” says Peterson. “And I actually said are you kidding?”

As it turned out the malignancies were found elsewhere in her breast. The news was followed by surgery, chemotherapy, and breast reconstruction.

She’s lucky she says, still alive. But there’s that nagging thought in the back of her mind. She should have gone in sooner.

“So, I think it is very important for women to go at 40 not 47,” she says. “That way you are in a pattern. Cause at 47 I just went on a whim.”

Turns out Charlow is not alone her belief and now one group of experts is recommending women start getting mammograms at age 40.

The U.S Preventive Services Task Force has pushed its guideline back ten years from 50 to age 40. The group suspects their recommendation will impact 20-million more women who one physician says should educate themselves about mammography, their own personal risk, and their family history.

“Know that you may not have signs of breast cancer,” says Dr. Bayo Curry-Winchell, St. Mary’s Medical Center Medical Director. “And so going in and getting screened, for all women is important. Now we have identified that black women it has been shown have a higher risk of mortality. Approximately 40% are dying from breast cancer even though the rate, or the amount of diagnosis is less. So, if you are a woman of color that is also an important piece you need to take note.”

By pushing the mammogram recommendation to 40 Dr. Curry-Winchell says some black women will have their breast cancer discovered in its earliest and most curable stages--perhaps lowering their mortality rate from breast cancer.

The task force says they expect the death rate of breast cancer as a whole in women should be reduced by 20%.

While it’s important for women to start thinking about mammography and its role in breast health, don’t forget monthly self-breast examinations as another tool in detecting warning signs of breast cancer.