When should women start getting mammograms?

According to the CDC, mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early, which makes it easier to treat and improves the chances of remission and survival. The timeline for starting mammogram screenings is different for every woman, and the guidelines aren’t identical across all organizations.

The Mayo Clinic recommends annual mammograms for women once they turn 40, and the American Cancer Society recommends offering them to women at 40 but doesn’t recommend them annually until 45. The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends getting a mammogram every two years starting at 50 for women at average risk for breast cancer.

What all organizations can agree on is that your healthcare provider can assess your unique risk and recommend the appropriate timeline for you to start receiving mammogram screenings. If you’re at higher risk for breast cancer, you might start to get mammograms before 40.

One reason routine mammograms don’t start earlier in life is that the results aren’t as clear in younger women. Mammograms use X-rays, which use the density of tissue to produce images. Young women have more dense tissue in their breasts than older women, making it harder to see abnormalities. There are also some risks involved in mammograms, including low-dose radiation, false negatives or positives, and the possibility of unnecessary further testing.

If you have questions or concerns about your risk of breast cancer or when you should start getting mammograms, speak with your healthcare provider. They’ll be able to talk to you about your family history, screening preferences, risk, and how to spot abnormalities in your breasts yourself.

  • Pruthi, Sandhya. “Mammogram guidelines: What are they?” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. March 2, 2016.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Mammogram.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. August 20, 2016. Web.
  • “American Cancer Society recommendations for early breast cancer detection in women without breast symptoms.” Cancer.org. American Cancer Society. October 20, 2016. Web.
  • “What Is Breast Cancer Screening?” CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. April 19, 2016.
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