Study Finds Women Put Off Mammograms

The National Cancer Institute estimates that 207,090 women will be diagnosed with and 39,840 women will die of cancer of the breast. A new study finds 50 percent of eligible women - even with health insurance - are not getting mammograms.

Today's report on mammography reflects the confusion and reluctance many women feel about the test, reports CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jonathan LaPook

"It's terrible, I just haven't made the time," said Tamara Zummallen. "They're always changing their minds."

Even Marcia Kane, who gets regular mammograms, says women get mixed messages.

"Once a year, two years, too much radiation…," said Kane.

At the time of this study, women were told to get mammograms every year beginning at age 40. But a review of claims from women with health insurance found that 50 percent of those 40 and older had not had a yearly mammogram, and nearly 40 percent of those over 50 didn't have screenings even every two years.

And that was before a controversial government report last year suggesting women wait until age 50 before starting to get routine mammography and then only every other year.

"There's definitely been a significant drop off," said Dr. Jorge Pardes, director of the Jacqueline M. Wilentz Comprehensive Breast Center at Monmouth Medical Center.

Since the new guidelines, breast cancer experts like Dr. Pardes are seeing fewer patients for mammography.

"Those women that were on the fence, they just drop out and say, 'I don't really need this,'" said Dr. Pardes.

Elizabeth Edwards, who died this week from breast cancer, said she had not had a mammogram in four years when she found a lump.

When Charlie Rose asked Edwards in a 2009 appearance on his show what she would have done differently in her life, she answered, "Well, for one thing, I would have had regular mammograms."

"If women stop taking care of their breast health, we're going to see cancers present at more advanced stages like we used to in the dark ages," said Dr. Pardes.

In spite of the government guidelines issued last year, the American Cancer Society continues to recommend women begin yearly screenings at age 40.