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Detecting breast cancer early gives best chance for cure with the least amount of therapy

David Kraus, MD, Medical Director, Radiation Oncology at Sierra Nevada Cancer Center

As we enter Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a woman may wonder, should I continue to have mammograms every year?

Last year, a great controversy erupted when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended screening mammography only for women ages 50-74 and only every two years.

Previously it supported the current American Cancer Society guidelines for yearly screening mammograms for women in good health over the age of 40.



Understandably, women and their physicians are confused by this conflicting advice from two respected organizations.

It seems that every month new research supports one view or the other. However, as an oncologist specializing in radiation treatment for breast cancer, I see every day the benefit of early detection with mammography.




When breast cancer is detected in its earliest stages, a woman has the best chance of cure with the least amount of therapy. Women with early breast cancers usually do not require mastectomy and can often avoid chemotherapy.

The benefit of earlier detection is reflected in the annual incidence and mortality rates of breast cancer.

The incidence of breast cancer has remained stable since the early 1990s when mammographic screening became commonplace in the U.S. However, the mortality from breast cancer has been steadily declining since then. This can only be explained by more effective detection and treatment of earlier and more curable cancers.

How good a job are we doing in our own community? Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital has been designated a “Comprehensive Community Cancer Center” by the American College of Surgeons, a recognition shared by only 10 percent of hospitals nationwide.

Our new imaging center offers state-of-the-art digital mammography complemented by ultrasound or MRI for those women whose breasts are difficult to image otherwise.

Statistically, we detect and cure more early stage breast cancers than most other hospitals regionally or nationally.

It is an honor to be part of the dedicated team that ably serves our community this, and every, month.

David Kraus has been recognized and included in the “Best Doctors in America” listing for 2010 – 2011. This distinction is based on peer recognition for unique medical experience, skill and insight that helps other doctors confidently manage complex medical problems.


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