When Should I Get a Mammogram?

At Southtowns Radiology, we take your preventative healthcare seriously, which is why we’re so proud to support Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Not everyone realizes how serious an issue this is. Even worse, some don’t know what steps they can take to protect themselves. We want to help. We’ve asked some of our staff to answer some of the questions you’ve asked recently. Let’s get started!

Q: When Should I Get My First Mammogram?

Answer: Sometimes, doctors and their respective medical societies (ACS, ACOG, ACR) don’t agree on every issue. Recently, there have been conflicting reports in the media, making it very confusing for women to know when to start having mammograms. Our advice comes from recommendations of the American College of Radiology, who regulates and accredits mammography facilities. They advise that should have your first “baseline” mammogram when you are 35 years old.

Q: How Often Should I Get a Mammogram?

Answer: Our experts agree that every woman should have a mammogram every year, beginning at age 40. Some 250,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. Sadly, 40,000 of those are expected to die. But it’s not all bad news. While regular mammograms cannot prevent breast cancer, it greatly improves the chance of finding it early. You’ve probably heard people talk about the stages of cancer, as in “She has Stage 3 breast cancer.” These stages (which technically are measured in roman numerals because doctors like to be fancy) refer to how far cancer has spread in your body. When breast cancer is caught early, before it has spread, the chance for a cure is almost 100 percent! That’s why we think it’s so important that women follow these guidelines.

Q: What If I Have a Family History of Breast Cancer? Should I Get Tested Sooner?

Answer: Sometimes. Women at high risk include those with a family history of cancer, those who have received radiation treatment before and those with certain genetic markers. If you think you might be high risk, talk to your doctor about developing a screening program that fits your needs. Typically, we will begin screening 10 years earlier than the age at diagnosis of a first degree relative (mother or sister). Additional screening, including MRI, is sometimes included for patients at higher risk.

We hope this helps you understand things a bit better. We’ll be answering your other questions about breast cancer all month. If you have any questions of your own, please contact us! Our experienced radiology staff is waiting to hear from you. Even better, schedule an appointment. Whether you’re in need of a mammogram or any other test, we’ve got you covered.

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