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When and How Often Should You Get Screened For Breast Cancer?

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Temple Doctors Explain the Breast Cancer Screening Recommendations

Posted by Temple Health

Mammograms can help detect breast cancer at an early stage. That's why they're an essential tool in the fight against breast cancer. 

If you are confused about whether it’s time to begin getting yearly mammograms, we are here to help! At Temple, we support the recommendations of The American Cancer Society® (ACS), which suggests the following for women at average risk of developing breast cancer:

  • If you’re 40 – 44, You can begin breast cancer screenings. Talk to your doctor about what’s right for you. 
  • If you’re 45 – 54, You should get a yearly mammogram.
  • If you’re 55 or over, You can switch to getting mammograms every two years if you’ve had no abnormal screenings or continue getting annual mammograms.
  • Breast cancer screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live at least ten more years.

Although routine breast self-exams haven't shown to be a very effective screening tool in women who also get mammograms, the ACS encourages all women to know how their breasts usually feel and to discuss any concerns they may have with their doctors. 

Mammograms may save lives in women ages 40-49, but the benefits aren’t as substantial in older women. There has also been some debate about the effectiveness of mammograms in detecting breast cancer early in younger women with no known risk factors, as they have a lower risk of developing the disease and have dense breast tissue (which can make it harder to see abnormal findings).

There’s a higher rate of false positive results from mammograms done on younger women, which can lead to the need for unnecessary follow-up tests.

So, how do you know what to do?

It’s important to remember that the ACS’s recommendations are for women at average risk. More frequent screenings may be recommended if you have a personal or family history of breast cancer or a genetic mutation known to increase the risk of breast cancer (such as the BRCA gene). If you had chest radiation therapy before age 30, you might also be at an increased risk.

It’s best to discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor to determine the best time to begin mammograms and how often you should get them based on your breast cancer risk profile. Some women may require screenings starting earlier or more frequently based on family history, genetic tendency, or other risk factors.

Are you due for a mammogram? Schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED.

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