When I turned 40 I automatically assumed it was time for a mammogram, but I was wrong. I talked with my doctor and she said that there are screening tests that she could do in her office to determine if I needed a mammogram. Honestly, this scared me because I really just wanted a mammogram to be sure I was ok.
After a clinical breast exam and review of my family history my doctor determined that I would not need a mammogram. She did recommend that by age 45 I should get a mammogram but still continue with the clinical breast exam until then.
In 2015 the recommended guidelines for when women should get a breast exam were changed and these guidelines vary by organization.
Susan. G. Komen recently created a graph to help outline the variety of guidelines:
As you can see from the chart above, it can be confusing. However, once you talk it over with your healthcare professional they will be able to help you make an informed decision about getting a mammogram.
David Boyd, Director of Wellness, Prevention and Primary Care at Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Western Regional Medical Center notes, “There are a number of factors that go into deciding when a woman should start screening for breast cancer, including family history and current lifestyle choices. However, it is critical that these conversations start happening so that women can be armed with the information they need to live a healthy lifestyle that may prevent cancer or take steps that might catch it in an early stage.”
There are a variety of screening tests available:
- Physical Exam: Annual exam is recommended by most physicians. Speak with yours.
- Mammogram: Typically done between the ages of 40-74, perhaps sooner based on personal and family history. 3D mammography is a new screening and diagnostic breast imaging tool to improve the early detection of breast cancer. This highly sensitive imaging tool provides individual images of thin layers of breast tissue, which produce much clearer images as compared to two-dimensional (2D) mammography.
- Needle Aspiration: Also known as a fine needle aspiration, a way of obtaining tissue for biopsy if needed.
- Biopsy: Usually a wider needle to obtain more tissue. “Tissue is the issue” to make a diagnosis!
Below is a graph that shows the general process of testing if a lump is found:
Keep these points in mind:
- According to ACS, approximately 90 percent of women who are 40 and older and find and treat their breast cancer are cancer-free after five years.
- Women who have a mother, sister or daughter who have or have had breast cancer are almost twice as likely to develop the disease.
- There are several risk factors for breast cancer. Be sure to discuss your risks for the disease with your doctor. If you are under 50, ask your doctor when you should start to have mammograms.
- Women who are at high risk for developing breast cancer should come up with a comprehensive cancer screening plan with their doctor. For example, women who have a family history of breast cancer should discuss having a genetic test to determine if they have mutations to their BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, which increase their risk for developing breast and ovarian cancer.
For more information visit www.cancercenter.com
— Dawn Cullo (@DawnCullo) February 9, 2016
Disclaimer: I received compensation for this post as part of a promotional program with CTCA and MomSelect but all opinions and stories are my own.