When should I get my first mammogram?
We at ARA are committed to providing access to women’s healthcare, which is why we support beginning screening mammograms by age 40. There has been some confusion lately about the screening guidelines so we would like to answer the questions we hear most often.
Why age 40?
The evidence is clear—this saves the most lives—a fact the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPTF) acknowledges. Starting at age 40, the incidence of breast cancer substantially increases, doubled compared to women ages 35-39, and continues to increase with each decade. Large studies looking at millions of women show that getting regular mammogram cuts breast cancer deaths by almost one third of all women ages 40 and older and some studies show that it cuts the risk of dying from breast cancer in half.
Why every year?
More lives are saved in women who get a screening mammogram every year as opposed to those who only get a mammogram every 2 years.
Breast cancer does not run in my family. Do I still have to get screened?
Most women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease. This is why screening everyone is so important.
I examine my breasts. Won’t I feel something?
Maybe, buy why wait until it is big enough to feel? The larger a breast cancer is at the time of diagnosis, the greater the risk it has spread beyond the breast into the lymph nodes.
What about over-diagnosis?
We are learning more and more about cancer every day, but, currently, modern medical science cannot tell us which breast cancers will kill a woman and which will not. Mammograms have been the most studied method of detecting cancer and are currently our best chance of catching it before it may have spread. Radiologists see breast cancer every single day. We are not on a government panel full of people who don’t take care of women with breast cancer, looking at statistics as if each number does not represent a mother, sister, daughter, or grandmother. We have suffered from breast cancer personally and we have cared for family and friends with breast cancer, so we understand the importance of early detection.
One last question: Do radiologists get mammograms beginning at age 40?
Absolutely. We bet our lives on it.