October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and perhaps the best way to get involved and raise awareness is to take action. Prioritize your own health by learning when to get screened.
Mammograms are breast X-rays, and they’re the best way to detect early signs of breast cancer.
The American Cancer Society recommends that all women start getting mammograms around age 45 — but when it comes to scheduling these screenings, it’s easy to be uncertain about how often you should have one.
Our team at OB-GYN Associates of Marietta is here to help. We specialize in well-woman exams, and we partner with you to develop a custom care plan based on your health needs.
Factors in our mammogram frequency recommendations
The question of how often you should have a mammogram doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all answer. It depends on a number of factors unique to you, such as:
1. Your age
The frequency of mammograms varies based on your age and individual risk factors. The American Cancer Society suggests that women ages 40-44 have the option to start annual mammograms. Beginning at age 45, annual mammograms are highly recommended.
Around age 55, you may have the option to transition to mammograms once every two years. You should continue regular mammograms as long as you’re in good health and expected to live at least 10 more years.
2. Your individual risk assessment
Age-based recommendations provide a general guideline, but your family history and individual health history play significant roles in your risk of breast cancer — and how often you should have mammograms.
If you have a family history of breast cancer or specific genetic mutations (like BRCA1 or BRCA2), you may be considered at high risk of breast cancer. In these cases, earlier or more frequent screenings can help ensure early detection and more effective care.
For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that high-risk women start mammogram screenings at ages 25-40.
3. Your breast density
Breast density can impact your mammogram results, and women with dense breasts may benefit from more frequent screenings. Dense breast tissue can make it harder to detect abnormalities on a mammogram.
For that reason, more frequent screenings can sometimes better identify early signs of cancer. We may also recommend additional imaging tests, like ultrasounds or MRIs, in conjunction with mammograms to get a more accurate assessment.
4. Your follow-up appointments
If a routine mammogram indicates an abnormality, you need further testing to evaluate the abnormality. The frequency of your follow-up screenings depends on the specific findings.
It's crucial not to delay any follow-up tests or consultations, as early detection can significantly improve your treatment outcome in case cancer is found.
Staying informed and involved
Numerous factors go into determining when and how often you should have a mammogram. Our team is here to help you stay informed about the latest research and recommendations, so you can get the care that’s right for you.
We strive to maintain an open and ongoing dialogue to help you make informed decisions. Along with regular mammograms, we recommend performing breast self-exams as part of your at-home health care routine.
Self-exams give you the opportunity to get familiar with your breasts' normal appearance and texture, making it easier to detect any changes or abnormalities. If you notice any unusual changes during a self-exam, schedule a doctor’s appointment as soon as possible — regardless of your mammogram schedule.
Remember that early detection is key in the fight against breast cancer. Take charge of your health this October and schedule a consultation at OB-GYN Associates of Marietta to learn more about scheduling mammograms.