The American Cancer Society reports that more than 43,000 American women die from breast cancer every year. Mammograms help women avoid becoming part of this statistic, but how often should you have one? Not everyone has the same recommended mammogram schedule, as every woman has various health and medical history factors that can influence mammogram needs.
Here’s what the experts say about this specialized imaging assessment and the factors that influence how often you should get one.
What Is Mammography?
Mammograms refer to a highly specialized breast X-ray. Designed to help diagnose malignancies and other problems anywhere in breast tissue, a routine mammogram can reveal cancer up to three years before detection on breast examination at home or in a doctor’s office. It is highly effective and therefore, a highly recommended preventive screening for breast cancer.
The Centers for Disease Control says that routine mammography is most helpful when women get tested regularly. This enables radiologists to compare past mammograms with current ones and to more easily detect cancer or other changes that may have developed.
It’s All About Risk Assessment and Breast Health Awareness
Discussing breast cancer risk with your primary care physician or gynecologist is one of the best ways to determine how likely you are to develop breast cancer. For instance, what is your age? Are you overweight? Do you smoke? What is your ethnicity? Some groups, such as African-American women, have higher breast cancer rates than their white counterparts. Other health and environmental factors may come into play, as well.
How Often Should You Get a Mammogram?
All these factors and more can help you decide how likely you are to get a breast cancer diagnosis. Women in their 40s and 50s have decreased risk of dying from this kind of malignancy if they routinely examine their breasts at home, get in-office breast exams with their healthcare providers, and get annual mammograms beginning at age 40.
If you have had a previous breast cancer diagnosis, or if you have one or more first-degree relatives (mother, sibling) who have had breast cancer, you may want to be monitored more often.
If your doctor sees a change in a routine mammogram, you may need additional testing, such as an ultrasound exam or even a biopsy to diagnose cancer definitively. However, the majority of breast changes revealed with mammography are not malignant. So, you should not immediately believe that the need for additional testing signals a serious condition.
Women’s Health Services at EMU Health
At EMU Health, our patients receive the finest in women’s health services, including 3D Genius mammography with dramatically improved imaging and better diagnostic capability.