When Should You Get your First Mammogram?
Mammograms have been and will continue to be the gold standard for breast cancer screening. But there are some discrepancies between when it is appropriate to start getting mammograms and how often mammograms are needed, which can confuse many women.
Mammograms are screening tools that use X-ray technology to create images of a patient’s breast tissue. These images can help detect breast cancer early and when it is most treatable. Mammograms got their start in the mid-1960, but it wasn’t until 1976 that the American Cancer Society recommended women get routine mammograms.
When Should I Get a mammogram?
The American Cancer Society recommends that women at average risk of breast cancer should start getting mammograms at age 45. Women can, however, start getting mammograms as early as age 40 if they wish. Women at a higher risk of breast cancer, for example, women with a family history of the disease, should talk to their healthcare provider about beginning their screening earlier.
Some other factors that can affect when a woman should begin mammograms, along with family history, include genetic mutation and breast density. Discussing these factors with your healthcare provider is essential so you can decide on an appropriate age to start your mammogram screenings.
How Often Should I Get a Mammogram?
Women between the ages of 45 and 54 should get a mammogram annually; the American Cancer Society recommends this. Women aged 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every two years but continue to have the choice to complete their screening annually.
What Age Should I Get my First Mammogram?
- Age 40 to 44: Women have the option to start annual mammograms if they choose, depending on their risk factors and personal preferences.
- Age 45 to 54: Women should begin annual mammograms.
- Age 55 and older: Women can transition to mammograms every two years or continue with annual screenings— depending on their risk factors and personal preferences.
- High-risk individuals: Women with a family history of breast cancer. Like the BRCA1/BRCA2 gene mutations, or other risk factors, should consult their healthcare provider about starting mammograms earlier or having additional screening tests.
Discuss individual risk factors, family history, and personal preferences with a healthcare provider to determine the best mammogram schedule. Regardless of the specific schedule, regular mammogram screenings are essential for early detection and improved treatment outcomes.
Women need to discuss the frequency of mammograms with their healthcare provider. The provider can determine the best plan for an individual based on their personal risk factors.
What Happens During a Mammogram?
When you arrive for your mammogram, you will check in just like any other appointment with the receptionist. Once checked in, you will be directed to a private area where you will be given a robe and asked to undress from the waist up. Once undressed, the technician or healthcare provider will escort you to the area where the mammogram will occur. The technician will then help you into the correct position to help ease any discomfort during the mammogram. Once started, the mammogram machine will compress the breast between two plates and take an x-ray of the breast. It will take a top view and a side view. The breast will be firmly compressed to get a clear image of the tissue. The mammogram process usually takes around 20 minutes.
To prepare for a mammogram, it is recommended that you avoid using deodorant, lotion, or powder because it can interfere with the images.
Do Mammograms Hurt?
Some women may experience discomfort during a mammogram due to the compression of the breast. However, the discomfort is usually brief and can be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers. The mammography technician or healthcare provider may also be able to use a special technique to reduce the amount of compression during the mammogram to make it more comfortable.
Most facilities will notify you by phone or mail within 10-14 days of your mammogram or sooner, depending on when the radiologist reads the mammogram. If the radiologist does not see anything unusual or concerning, they will recommend annual screening. If there was an abnormality or an area of the breast that they could not get a clear view of, you might be asked to come back for follow-up imaging, either an ultrasound or a more in-depth mammogram. Follow-up imaging is very common. If you have any concerns regarding your mammogram report, contact your healthcare provider.
Importance of Early Detection
According to the American Cancer Society, the 5-year survival rate is 99% when breast cancer is detected early. As cancer progresses, the survival rate decreases. This highlights the importance of regular mammograms in the early detection of breast cancer. Mammograms are a vital screening tool in early detection because they can detect breast cancer before a woman or her healthcare provider can even feel a lump when it is most treatable. Early detection also allows for more treatment options and a better chance of survival.
Regular mammograms are an essential tool in the early detection of breast cancer. It is important to schedule routine mammograms and discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider.
Schedule your Mammogram Appointment
It is important to remember that regular mammograms are an essential tool in the early detection of breast cancer when it is most treatable. Scheduling a mammogram is easy and usually takes only a few minutes.
Key Points to Remember
- Start mammograms at age 45 or earlier if you have a higher risk of breast cancer.
- Discuss mammogram frequency with your healthcare provider.
- Schedule regular mammograms.
- If you have any concerns, always consult with your provider.
For more information on mammograms and breast cancer, visit our website and check out the mammography infographic.