Is It Time for a Mammogram?  

When was the last time you had a mammogram?

A mammogram is a test that takes an X-ray of each breast from two different angles. It allows doctors called radiologists to look for signs of breast cancer in women who don’t have any breast problems or symptoms.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that women with an average risk and a high risk of developing breast cancer should have regular mammograms. That way, breast cancer can be found early and treated successfully, improving your odds of surviving.

Recommended Mammogram Schedule for Women with Average Risk 

Your risk for breast cancer is average if you:

  •  Have never had breast cancer before

  • Do not have a strong family history of breast cancer

  • Do not have a genetic mutation known to increase the risk for breast cancer, such as a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation

  • Have not had chest radiation therapy before the age of 30

The recommended mammogram schedule for women with an average risk according to the ACS is as follows:

  • Ages 40 to 44: Choose whether to start having a mammogram every year.

  • Ages 45 to 54: Get a mammogram annually.

  • Ages 55 and older: Switch to every other year or continue with yearly mammograms. Continue as long as you are in good health.

Recommended Mammogram Schedule for Women with High Risk

Your breast cancer risk is high if:

  • A genetic test found that you have a genetic mutation known to increase the risk for breast cancer, such as a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation

  • Your parent, sibling, or child had breast cancer with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation and you have not had a genetic test

  • Your doctor calculates that your lifetime risk for breast cancer is about 20 to 25 percent or more, based on your family history

  • You had chest radiation therapy between the ages of 10 and 30

If you have a high risk for breast cancer, you should have a mammogram annually starting at the age of 30, the ACS recommends. You should also receive a breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test every year. A breast MRI allows radiologists to see more detail.

Breast cancer screening recommendations vary among different organizations, so be sure to talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of screening to determine your ideal screening schedule.

Reduce Your Risk Factors

There are several factors that increase your breast cancer risk.

Risk factors you can’t change include:

  • Getting older

  • Being a woman

  • Having a family history of breast cancer

  • Starting your period at an early age

  • Late menopause after the age of 55

But here’s the good news: There are steps you can take to lower your risk for breast cancer. Take charge of your health and reduce your chances of developing breast cancer by: 

  • Avoiding alcohol or limiting drinks to no more than one per day

  • Keeping a healthy weight

  • Exercising regularly

  • Breastfeeding any children you may have, if possible

  • Asking your doctor about the risks of birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy and finding out if either are right for you

Finding breast cancer early, when it’s small and has not spread, will ensure you have the best chance for a successful outcome. Protect your health by having regular mammograms.

 

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