Mammograms save lives, but only if you can get them. According to a study presented at the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Clinical Congress 2020 last week, this appears to be a bigger problem for women in the US who speak only Spanish or have limited English than their English speaking counterparts .
"Only Spanish speakers appear to be 27% less likely to have a screening mammogram than English speakers," said lead study researcher Jose L. Cataneo, MD, in a press release. Dr. Cataneo is a general surgeon at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) / Metropolitan Group Hospitals.
The researchers looked at nearly 10,000 women for the study. The group included 1,040 people with limited English skills, of whom 756 spoke only Spanish.
When reviewing which women received screening mammograms, the researchers found that those who spoke English had 12% more mammograms than those with limited English; 209 in the latter group said they had never had a screening mammogram.
The researchers used statistical software to determine what these numbers would look like across the country. They estimated that among women ages 40 to 75 who could have screening mammograms, 450,000 women did not.
Age didn't matter
Could age have played a role in the differences between English-speaking women and women with impaired English? Apparently not. The researchers divided the women into 3 groups:
"In all three groups, we found that people with limited English proficiency were less likely to have screening mammograms," said Dr. Cataneo in the press release.
Recommendations for breast cancer screening
The U.S. Task Force on Preventive Services recommends that women aged 50 to 74 who have an average risk of developing breast cancer have a mammogram every two years. Women aged 40 to 49 should be evaluated if they have parents, siblings, or children with breast cancer, or if their doctor recommends them. There is no recommendation for regular mammograms for women aged 75 and over.
The American Cancer Society has slightly different recommendations. According to the company, women ages 40 to 44 should have an annual mammogram every year if they so choose. Women between 45 and 50 should have an annual mammogram and over 55 should have a mammogram every 2 years. "Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is likely to live 10 years or more," the website says.
It's important to remember that guidelines are just that – guidelines. They should be overridden if a woman and her doctor believe there is a reason, e.g. B. a family history of breast cancer, why mammograms should be started earlier or done more often.
Take that away
Studies like this point to the inequalities in health care. While Hispanic women tend to be less likely to get breast cancer, the disease is the leading cause of death from cancer in the community.
The researchers pointed out that many women who do not speak English or have limited skills are often economically disadvantaged and may not have health insurance. Also, they may not understand or fear the importance of mammograms. Therefore, education in the community is essential to increase screening rates.