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Mammograms for Breast Cancer Prevention and Early Detection

Image: National Cancer Institute

If you are over 40, your physician may start to talk to you about getting a mammogram. Maybe you have already had your first mammogram and you want to know how often you should have one. There’s been so much information out for women about when to start having mammograms it gets confusing. What is recommended for midlife health? Here’s the information I found out.

In 2009, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) indicates that mammograms are recommended every other year for women 50-74. That recommendation surprised me since I’ve been getting them annually since I turned 40.

The American Cancer Society recommends annual mammograms and which should continue as long as the woman is in good health. Johns Hopkins and Mayo Clinic on-line information indicates they both recommend annual mammograms starting at age 40, and earlier if the patient has any risk factors. This is the same as the American Cancer Society recommendation.

I have a friend who wasn’t getting mammograms in her 40’s and got breast cancer at 45. She was doing monthly breast exams. She found her own tumor but she didn’t feel it until it was already large. She had a fast growing cancer and had to have a mastectomy, chemo and radiation. I’m happy to say she is 5 years cancer free but if she would have had regular mammograms, her treatment wouldn’t have been so invasive.

Getting breast cancer from 40-49 is rarer than in women after 50. When a woman gets breast cancer in her 40’s, there is a greater chance of getting a faster form of breast cancer. It’s important to talk to your physician to determine what is best for you.

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