Being a woman isn't always easy, and part of that is getting regular gynecologic exams and breast exams. But at what age should you begin to get mammograms to screen for breast cancer?
OB/GYN Dr. John Paul Roberts can ease all your worries about when you should start getting regular mammograms. For your convenience, he can even perform mammography conveniently in his office.
A mammogram is basically an X-ray of your breast tissue. This X-ray is able to detect early signs of breast cancer, sometimes well before you’re able to feel a lump. The image from the mammogram shows the anatomy of your breast tissue and any abnormalities that may be present.
Mammography is performed by you standing in front of a specialized X-ray machine, with one of your breasts exposed. Your breast is placed on a clear flat plate, and another clear flat plate will come down and put some pressure on your breast to flatten out the tissue. This will also be done from the side. This allows for a clear picture of your breast tissue. The same process is completed on your other breast.
If an abnormality is found in your breast tissue, Dr. Roberts may order another test to rule out cancer, such as an ultrasound, MRI, or a breast biopsy.
There are many guidelines as to when you should get your first mammogram. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that average-risk women be given the opportunity to initiate screening at age 40. Those who do not start screening then should begin no later than age 50. Women should be screened every 1 or 2 years.
However, the American Cancer Society recommends getting yearly mammograms as early as 45 if you’re at average risk for breast cancer, and switching to every other year at age 55.
With differences in the recommendations, how do you know when you should start getting regular screenings?
The answer is: There isn't a perfect time to start receiving mammograms. Every woman is different, and therefore may need to start testing earlier or later in life depending on several factors. One of the most important factors is a family history of breast cancer. Other factors include personal preference, history of other cancers, breast issues, and genetics.
There are many factors that help determine when you should begin getting yearly mammograms. You and Dr. Roberts can discuss your personal situation to decide when you should get your first one and how often to repeat them.
The decision to get a mammogram is not only in Dr. Robert's hands. You can be your own healthcare advocate, and if you feel that there is a reason for you to get a mammogram sooner, you may request one at any time. The best thing for you to do is to be open and honest with Dr. Roberts about your family history, risk factors, and any new breast problems you may be having.
Another tool that can help determine your need for a mammogram is regular self breast exams. These exams are performed at home by yourself, and can help you become familiar with your breasts, which will increase the chances of finding a lump early on.
Mammography is a very important factor in the early detection of breast cancer. If you’re ready to discuss getting a mammogram, call our office in Plano, Texas, at 972-591-8826 or book an appointment online today.