Breast cancer will take the lives of roughly 40,000 women in 2015, and while the National Cancer Institute states that women with the highest risk of being diagnosed are between the ages of 55 and 64, 11 percent of women diagnosed each year are under the age of 44. Statistically, this shows that early detection is your best bet when battling breast cancer.
Breast cancer as a disease is largely without symptoms, and more than 85 percent of patients diagnosed have no family history of the disease. Therefore, regular mammograms—X-rays of the breast—are one of the best ways to detect breast cancer early.
So at what age should women start receiving mammograms? There's some dissension between the government and the medical community on this topic, so women need to get all the facts in order to make a personal decision for their own health.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has found that mammograms are most helpful for women between the ages of 50 and 74. Therefore, they recommend that women begin getting mammograms every two years after the age of 50.
That contradicts the stance of the United States Congress and high-profile groups like the American Cancer Society and the American College of Radiology, which recommend annual mammograms beginning at age 40. There is no increased risk associated with getting a mammogram at this time, and most insurance companies cover the cost of a mammogram starting when a woman turns 40. Therefore, the standard recommendation is that women should begin receiving annual mammograms at the age of 40.
While it is true that mammograms are typically recommended annually starting at age 40, there are instances when they should be started sooner. In families where breast cancer is diagnosed before age 50, the recommendation is for the daughters of the patient to start mammograms at least 10 years younger than the age of diagnosis. For example, if a woman was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 45, then her daughters would be recommended to consider starting mammograms at age 35.
For women who carry the gene that places them at greater risk for breast cancer, the recommended age to begin mammography may be as young as 25.
The most important things that women can do:
- Obtain a full family history going back two generations looking for all types of cancer and other health issues.
- Discuss your individual risk and ways to reduce it with your primary care provider, OB/GYN or breast specialist.
- Determine the surveillance plan that is best for you based on your personal and family history.
Another question you should ask is, "How long should I have mammograms?"
Annual mammograms should continue as long as the patient would want to do something about an abnormality that may be found. It will vary from patient to patient, and there is no age cut-off.
So, please discuss your personal risk factors with your healthcare providers to determine when it is appropriate for you to start getting regular mammograms.
Posted: 5/29/2015 by
Filed under: Breast, Cancer, Health, Mammogram, Screenings, Women's