Mammograms can save your life, but there’s conflicting information on when – and how often – you should have them.
Should you start at 40 or wait until 50?
That’s a hard question, and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
Every year over 40?
Some doctors, such as surgeons, gynecologists and radiologists, say women 40 and older should have yearly mammograms, no matter what risk factors exist.
I don’t blame people who recommend this, because if cancer is detected it could save the woman’s life. I’m glad some of my younger patients got mammograms, because thanks to that they are still alive.
If cancer is found in someone in their 40s, it is usually more aggressive.
However, earlier screening may not be what’s best for you.
Every other year over 50?
Developing breast cancer in your 40s is very rare. Breast cancer is most often found in women in their 60s.
The American Academy of Family Physicians and the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommend waiting until 50 and then screening every two years. This is because mammograms are more beneficial then – a much more at-risk population is being screened.
Also, younger women have dense breasts. This can lead to false positives – and a lot of emotional turmoil.
Women are called back if something questionable is detected on mammogram. This is one of the scariest phone calls a person could get. Then they have to go through and an ultrasound and then possibly a biopsy.
If you have no risk factors, perhaps waiting until 50 and then having a mammogram every other year makes sense.
There is no wrong answer. Each patient is different. So discuss with your doctor which screening schedule is best for you.