Billings Clinic


Early detection with a mammogram key to surviving breast cancer

Posted at 3:35 PM, Oct 19, 2021

Early detection with a mammogram key to surviving breast cancer

The statistics on breast cancer in the United States can be overwhelming. It is the second most common form of cancer among American women and there is a one in eight chance a woman will develop the disease in her lifetime.

Nationally, more than 255,000 women get breast cancer and more than 42,000 women die from the disease every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Estimates indicate that 950 Montana women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2021, and about 140 die from it annually.

But buried among the statistics are encouraging numbers that show the importance and effectiveness of regular screenings and early detection in survival rates.

The American Cancer Society estimates that the five-year relative survival rate for women with stage 0 or stage I breast cancer – the earliest forms of the disease – is nearly 100 percent, while those diagnosed with stage II breast cancer see a rate of about 93 percent.

The survival rate for stage III breast cancers is about 73 percent and those in stage IV that have spread to other parts of the body, called metastatic, have a five-year relative survival rate of around 22 percent. However, it is important to note that many of these cases can see success with proper treatment.

Currently, the majority of breast cancer cases are diagnosed early on, and that’s a good thing because early-stage breast cancer can often be cured and patients can go on to live healthy, happy lives.

One of the most important tools in early breast cancer detection is a mammogram. While it cannot prevent or cure the disease, this simple diagnostic procedure is vital in catching it in the early stages, since many women diagnosed with breast cancer have no known risk factors and no family history of the disease.

The American College of Radiology recommends that women start receiving annual mammograms beginning at age 40.

Those at a higher risk – such as women with a strong family history or those with certain genetic indicators – may consider getting screenings at a younger age at the recommendation of a physician. Women can start by talking to their care providers to help determine risk factors, along with regular annual mammograms.

The team at the Billings Clinic Reger Family Center for Breast Health encourages the regular annual screenings to detect breast cancer early, and offers tomosynthesis technology for mammography, which uses X-rays to provide a 3-dimensional view of the breast, making fine details more clearly visible.

Billings Clinic offers complete breast diagnostic services in a private, comfortable environment. Radiologists utilize computer-aided detection (CAD) technology on mammograms.  The Center is staffed by a dedicated, caring team of breast care specialists, including certified female technologists and board-certified radiologists.

For more information or to schedule a mammogram  call 406-238-2501 or 800-332-7156 or visit