When it comes to breast cancer, regular screening tests are a woman’s first line of defense in discovering breast cancer or breast abnormalities during the early stages before progression. Early detection through screening has given women—and men—a fighting chance in beating breast cancer. With that being said, there’s still a lot of uncertainty about when people should actually start undergoing preventative screenings for breast cancer. Oftentimes we get patients asking the age-old question: “When should I get a mammogram”? Here’s some more information on the topic.
A mammogram is an X-ray picture of the breast. Doctors use a mammogram to look for early signs of breast cancer, which can be visible internally long before they are able to be detected through a breast self-exam. Regular mammograms are the best tests doctors have to find breast cancer early, sometimes up to three years before it can be felt.
This is one of the most controversial topics surrounding mammogram screening. The age at which you start getting mammograms, as well as how frequently you get screened, is based largely off a combination of factors including your age, your risk family, your family history, etc. Because of this, the answer to “when should I get a mammogram” is often different for everyone – which is why it’s so important that you talk with your doctor about your specific history to determine the best time for you. With that being said, here are some of the recommended screening guidelines:
- Women ages 40 to 44 can begin annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (x-rays of the breast) if they choose, but it is not required for women with average or low risk.
- Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms annually at this point, regardless of risk level, and women who are higher risk may need them more regularly.
- Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years or can continue yearly screening if desired.
What is a high-risk individual?
A high-risk individual is someone who has an above average risk of developing breast cancer. That risk is often determined based off a number of factors, but age, certain lifestyle habits, and genetic history largely influence whether you are deemed high risk for breast cancer. Most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 or older, and some other factors that put you at a higher risk of cancer include being overweight, being a smoker, and living a sedentary life—these are all factors you can change.
What happens during a mammogram?
A technologist will position your breasts for the mammogram. You and the technologist are the only ones in the room during the procedure. To get a high-quality picture, your breast must be flattened. The technologist will gently place your breast on the machine’s plate. The plastic upper plate is lowered to compress your breast for a few seconds while the technologist takes a picture. The whole procedure takes about 20 minutes, but the actual breast compression only lasts a few seconds.
Mammograms are a woman’s best chance at detecting breast cancer earlier, and when it comes to breast cancer your chances of beating the disease are significantly higher the earlier you detect the condition. Talk to your doctor about when you should start receiving regular mammograms, and if you need to book a mammogram in Manhattan, call Rosetta Radiology today!