Elizabeth Edwards Death Spotlights Breast Cancer Screening

Elizabeth Edwards arrives at Stand Up to Cancer on Sept. 10, 2010, in Culver City, Calif. <br><br> <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/12/07/politics/main7127279.shtml" class="linkIcon read"><b>Elizabeth Edwards Dies of Cancer</b></a>
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Elizabeth Edwards (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

(CBS/AP) Elizabeth Edwards, who died Tuesday of metastatic breast cancer, endured many hardships during her 61 years. The death of her young son. A humiliating betrayal by her husband, failed presidential candidate John Edwards. And, of course, the cancer itself, which she battled for six years.

But her willingness to talk opening about her struggle with cancer, and her high-profile death, may help ease the suffering of other women, experts say. How? By throwing a spotlight no the threat posed by a disease that kills more than 200,000 a year and on the importance of screening for the disease.

"Her death wil help remind women about the importance of mammography as an early detection tool for breast cancer," Dr. J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, deputy medical director of the American Cancer Society, told CBS News.

Only about 60 percent of women in the get recommended mammograms, according to Dr. Lichtenfeld.

Leading cancer organizations have called for annual mammograms for women age 40 and older, and last November a government panel recommended mammography once every two years for women starting at age 50.

Edwards detected the breast cancer herself, Dr. Lichtenfeld said, reportedly after failing to undergo recommended mammograms.

Dr. Linda Vahdat, an oncologist and director of the Breast Cancer Research Program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, said her breast cancer patients were talking about Edwards on Tuesday.

"They're said, Vahdat said. "People have always been rooting for her."