A recent study published on by the British Medical Journal questioning the benefit of yearly mammogram screenings has gained some traction in the media, causing confusion among women and some concerns among experts in the field.

The study casts doubt on the conventional wisdom that annual screening in women aged 40 to 59 does lowers breast cancer death rates. But, according to the American College of Radiology and Society of Breast Imaging, the study has flaws that invalidate its conclusions. For that reason, St. Mary's Medical Center Breast Center (and The American Cancer Society) continues to recommend regular mammography screening for women in this age group.

Mammograms help save lives. Mammography is the only breast cancer screening test proven to decrease mortality in breast cancer by 30 percent.

They are still the best way to find breast cancer early, such as breast lumps when they are too small for a woman or her healthcare provider to feel. This year nearly 230,000 Americans will be diagnosed with breast cancer. That's more than 630 people every day. Worse, for those diagnosed it's estimated that around 40,000 women and men will die from the disease.

Mammography is recommended for:

• Women starting at age 40 and continuing annually for as long as a woman is in good health.

• Women with a mother or sister who had breast cancer at a younger age should consider yearly mammograms beginning earlier than the age at which their youngest family member was diagnosed.

• Screening mammography is not done during pregnancy or while breastfeeding however any abnormalities such as a lump or change in the breast should be reported immediately.

• Clinical breast exam (CBE) are recommended about every 3 years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and over

• Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and be able to report any breast change promptly to their doctor. Breast self-exam (BSE) is an option for women starting in their 20s.

• Some women - because of their family history, a genetic tendency, or certain other factors - should be screened with MRI in addition to mammography. Talk with your doctor about your history and whether you should have additional tests at an earlier age.

While mammograms cannot find all problems, they are very effective. Every woman should be working with her healthcare provider to customize a screening routine best for her including appropriate scheduling of screening mammography and clinical breast examination. Call your doctor or clinic if you notice any changes in your breasts like lumps, thickening, liquid leaking from the nipple, or changes in nipple appearance.

The Breast Center at St. Mary's Medical Center has earned accreditation by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers, given only to those centers that have voluntarily committed to provide the highest level of quality breast care and a rigorous evaluation of their performance.

The Breast Center at St. Mary's offers state-of-the-art digital technology and expanded mammography hours:

• Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday: 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

• Wednesday: 7 a.m.-5 p.m.

• Walk-in mammograms are available Monday-Thursday, 8-11:30 a.m., and 1-4 p.m.

You don't need a physician referral for a screening mammogram. Just call to schedule an appointment with the Breast Center, call 816-655-5515. For further information specific to your needs please contact Doneda Swenson, Patient Navigator at 816-655-5767.

James R. Bergh, M.D., is a Breast Center patient navigator at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Blue Springs.