Study: Half of Women Over 40 Aren't Getting Mammograms

By: Sandra Hughes, for CBS News Email
By: Sandra Hughes, for CBS News Email

It's estimated 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime.

In the Saint Joseph Health Scene report, startling new statistics show half of all women are not getting mammograms as recommended.

Three years ago Reri Pumphrey got news she didn't expect to hear.

"I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer," says Pumphrey.

The then 55 year-old working mother was diagnosed through a mammogram, but she had not always been diligent about her check ups.

"I was sporadic. I'd go for a mammogram and once I got the clean bill of health, i felt healthy. I would let it lapse 2, 3, 4 years," says Pumphrey.

A new study shows Pumphrey is not alone. Only half of women over 40 are getting annual mammograms and only 65% of women between 50 and 64 had gotten one within the last two years.

The research is based on insurance claims between 2006 and 2009.

"If women stop taking care of their breast health we're going to see cancers present at more advance stages like we used to in the dark days," warns Doctor Jorge Pardes with the Monmouth Medical Center.

There has been debate and confusion over when women should get mammograms. Last year a government task force recommended women in their 40s at average risk for cancer don't need the annual test.

The American Cancer Society still recommends starting annual mammograms at 40. Despite her missed mammograms, Pumphrey is cancer free today.

"Don't feel you are cancer immune, you are not!" she says.

She now vigilant about annual checkups.

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