Mammograms: Who'se Getting Them?


The question often comes up regarding why women still are not getting mammograms. There are a number of reasons why some women avoid a simple procedure that can save their lives. There is no one answer.

Let's take a look at who is and who isn't getting mammograms according to the American Cancer Society. In their 2015 report, ACS shares that after many years of growth, the numbers of women getting mammograms has leveled off over the past ten years.

The mammogram was promoted for widespread use in the1980's as the best tool for detecting breast cancer early, when it was easier to treat, and had the best prognosis. Screening rates improved annually through the breast cancer awareness campaigns of the American Cancer Society, health care professionals encouraging their patients to have mammograms, organizations for women promoting mammograms in their literature, women survivors spreading the word to family and friends, and events that attracted the public and educated them about the importance of early detection and intervention.

The screening rates between 1987 and 2013 indicate:

  • 1987: 29%
  • 2000: 70%
  • 2005-2010: 67%
  • 2010-2013: 66%

The American Cancer Society confirms that 226,900 breast cancer deaths have been averted since 1989 when women began to have regular mammogram screenings.

  • The breast cancer death rate went down by 35% between 1989 and 2011
  • As of 1989, there were 33 deaths from breast cancer per 100,000 women
  • As of  2011, there were 22 deaths from breast cancer per 100,000 women

So, Who’s Not Getting  Mammograms?

Insurance Remains a Factor:

  • 29% of women who have insurance are not getting mammograms
  • 68% of women who are uninsured are not getting mammograms

    Education Level

    • 25% of college graduates are not getting their mammograms
    • 48% of women with less than 12 years education are not getting their mammograms

    34% of White women are not getting their mammograms
    34% of Black women are not getting their mammograms
    38% of Hispanic women are not getting their mammograms
    33% of Asian women are not getting their mammograms
    37% of American Indian/Alaska Native women are not getting their mammograms

    When women, who are 40+ and choose not to get a mammogram, it is often a matter of being afraid of what will actually be discovered. These women avoid mammograms because they can't imagine coping with losing a breast, should cancer be discovered.

    There are women who choose to believe that since breast cancer doesn't run in their families, they are safe, they don't need screenings.They don't know or refuse to believe that 85% of all breast cancers occur in women who have no know history of breast cancer.

    Uninsured women may not aware that there is a federal program,the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, that provides free and very low cost screenings to eligible women.

    Many of these women are the working poor, or are non-English speaking immigrants, who live communities where breast cancer awareness campaigns rarely reach.

    The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) provides early detection testing to low-income, under-served, under-insured, and uninsured women in the US. Uninsured women who are diagnosed with cancer through the NBCCEDP can usually get treatment through their state’s Medicaid program.

    One of the most effective ways we are going to get more women to have mammograms is to have outreach programs that bring the message of mammography to communities of color, and new immigrants. Presentations need to be given by women, preferably breast cancer survivors, who reflect the racial and ethnic composition of the community in which they are speaking, and in the language spoken in that specific community. Presenters need to understand and be sensitive to the cultural taboos and religious beliefs that may influence a woman's decision to have breast screenings.

    Edited by:Jean Campbell

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