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The numbers are frightening and staggering. The American Cancer Society says breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, other than skin cancer. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, after lung cancer.
The ACS says that about 182,460 women in the United States will be found to have invasive breast cancer in 2008. About 40,480 women will die from the disease this year. Right now there are about two and a half million breast cancer survivors in the United States. The chance of a woman having invasive breast cancer some time during her life is about 1 in 8. The chance of dying from breast cancer is about 1 in 35. Breast cancer death rates are going down. This is probably the result of finding the cancer earlier and improved treatment.
One of the keys to early detection and treatment is a mammogram, an x-ray of the breast. A screening mammogram is for women who do not appear to have breast problems. Women who have symptoms, such as a lump, skin change or nipple discharge, will have what's called a diagnostic mammogram. About 1 in 10 women who get a mammogram will need more pictures taken. But most of these women do not have breast cancer. Only 2 to 4 of every 1,000 mammograms leads to a diagnosis of cancer.
Although the use of x-rays to examine the breast was first introduced more than 90 years ago, modern mammography has only existed since 1969, when the first dedicated x-ray machines used just for breast imaging became available. Since then, the technology has advanced a great deal, so that today's mammogram is very different even from those of the mid-1980s.
Imaging technology, of course, is playing a major, ongoing role. A recent study, published in the on-line version of the American Journal of Roentgenology, the scientific journal of the American Roentgen Ray Society, compared computer-aided detection (CAD) to double-reading without CAD. It compared recall rate, sensitivity, positive predictive value and cancer detection rate for each.