Breast cancer screenings are an important part of preventive health care for women as they age. Mammograms help detect and diagnose breast cancer, so you and your doctor can develop a treatment plan that addresses cancer in its early stages. While some doctors recommend beginning breast cancer screening at age 40, this may vary depending on your personal preferences and health history.
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In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, here’s what you need to know about when to have your first breast cancer screening.
Your first mammogram
Some healthcare organizations are now suggesting waiting until the age of 50 before having your first mammogram. Other healthcare providers offer mammograms to women aged 40 and up, and recommend annual screenings thereafter.
The best way to determine when to have your first mammogram is to sit down with your gynecologist or women’s health doctor, and discuss the benefits and risks of undergoing mammogram screening at your current age. If breast cancer runs in your family history, or you have one or more non-modifiable breast cancer risk factors, you may want to ask your physician about the possibility of early screening.
Breast cancer screening recommendations
As ongoing medical research continues to uncover more data about mammograms and their role in detecting breast cancer, healthcare organizations are changing the recommended age at which women should start screening.
Here’s when the following organizations recommend undergoing breast cancer screenings:
- American Cancer Society: Annually between ages 40 and 44 with approval from healthcare provider; annually between ages 45 to 54; and every two years from 55 and up.
- National Comprehensive Cancer Network: Annually beginning at age 40.
- U.S. Preventive Services Task Force: Annually between ages 40 and 49 with approval from healthcare provider, and every two years between 50 and 74.
Screenings for women at high risk for breast cancer
If your healthcare provider determines you’re at high risk for breast cancer, you may be recommended to have your first mammogram as early as the age of 20. This helps your doctor detect breast cancer as early on as possible so you can begin treatment and maintain your quality of life.
Here are factors that significantly increase breast cancer risk:
- Strong family history of breast cancer, diagnosed at young ages
- BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation
- Personal history of invasive breast cancer
- Radiation treatment to the chest between ages 10 and 30
Contact your healthcare provider to discuss mammogram screening if you have one or more of the above risk factors. Your physician will help you determine your next best steps, and discuss when and if mammogram screening is appropriate.
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