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:
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
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.