The Importance of Mammograms
October 14, 2021Finding breast cancer early reduces a woman’s risk of dying from the disease by 25% to 30% or more. Regular mammograms are the best tests doctors have to find breast cancer early, sometimes up to three years before it can be felt.1 Here are the benefits of having yearly mammograms starting at the recommended age of 40.
How a Mammogram Works
A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray picture of the breast. They can show abnormal areas in the breast. Although mammograms do not prove that an abnormal area is cancer, doctors can use the images to decide whether or not more testing is needed.
Because the X-rays don’t go through tissue easily, a technician will place your breast between two plates that compress or flatten it to spread the breast tissue apart for a better picture.
Why 40 is the Magic Number for Mammograms?
There are several reasons, but most significantly, annual mammography starting at age 40 results in the greatest mortality reduction, the most lives saved, and the most years of life gained, according to the American College of Radiology and the Society of Breast Imaging.2
Here are some other reasons:
- Breast cancer incidence increases substantially around age 40.
- One in six breast cancers occurs in women aged 40 to 49.
- 40% of all the years of life saved by mammography are among women in their 40s.
Benefits of an Annual Mammography at 40
Can save your life. As we’ve already learned, the earlier breast cancer is detected, the less risk a person has of dying from the disease. There is a misconception that you don’t need to get routine mammograms if you don’t have anyone in your family who has had breast cancer. The fact is, 75% of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease.3 But if you have a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer, it’s recommended that you start having annual mammograms beginning around age 30.4
Can save your breasts. When breast cancer is caught early with mammography, localized cancers can be removed, which means many more women being treated for breast cancer are able to keep their breasts.
Takes little time. Mammograms are typically a 20-minute procedure, and discomfort is minimal for most women. You can do it on your lunch hour!
Choose your type. Not all breasts are created equal, and there are different types of mammogram technology, including traditional, digital, and 3D mammograms, to get the best quality image for each woman’s situation. For instance, some women have dense breasts that are better suited to a digital or 3D mammogram, which allow doctors to enlarge image areas to look at specific places more closely.
As powerful as mammograms are, they can still miss tissues that aren’t visible. Be sure to perform breast self-exams at least once a month to familiarize yourself with how your breasts normally look and feel.
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