More people survive breast cancer, thanks in part to early detection.
But a new poll highlights persistent, perhaps even widening holes in
women's understanding of their risk for the disease and their knowledge
about the screening tests that are right for them.
conducted for ABC's month-long series on breast cancer, found that 50
percent of women said they'd discussed breast cancer with their doctors,
down from 58 percent in 2007. And 46 percent expressed concern about
their own risk, down from 61 percent in 2007.
One in eight
American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, according to the
National Cancer Institute. And while the risk increases with age,
experts said it starts at birth.
"There are important steps every
woman can take throughout her life - well before age 40 - to help lower
her lifetime risk," said Dr. Marisa Weiss, founder of BreastCancer.org.
a healthy body weight and exercising regularly can reduce your risk of
breast cancer. But only 4 percent of women polled said they dieted to
protect themselves against breast cancer, and only 2 percent said they
When it comes to breast cancer screening, the poll
suggests confusion is rampant, with 86 percent of women saying the tests
-- mammograms -- should start at age 30 or 40, and 65 percent saying
they should be done annually - both departures from the United States
Preventive Services Task Force's recommendation to screen every two
years starting at age 50.
But the confusion may stem from
conflicting recommendations. Both BreastCancer.org and the American
Cancer Society recommend annual mammograms for all women 40 and older,
regardless of their risk factors. And the results of a recent study
suggest that earlier mammograms could save lives.
Read about the study and the mammogram debate.
out of eight women age 40 and older said they had a mammogram in the
past two years, according to the poll. But among those women who said
they hadn't, the most commonly cited reason was that they didn't believe
they needed a mammogram.
"The 'street fight' about mammography
makes people think that breast cancer is no longer a dangerous disease
and that mammography is optional for all," BreastCancer.org's Weiss said
of the mammogram debate. "And people equate the start of mammography
with the start of breast cancer risk. So it's no surprise that if some
doctors say get your mammogram later, people will think risk starts even
The poll also found that 52 percent of women would want
to be tested for gene mutations that raise their breast cancer risk, and
28 percent of women would have preventive mastectomies to reduce their