There is a wide consensus that women should have annual mammograms between the ages of 45 and 54. But there is some disagreement among doctors as to whether mammograms are beneficial for women between the ages of 40 and 45. This is an option you should, of course, discuss with your own doctor.
If you’re older than 55, you can choose to continue your annual mammograms or opt to have one every two years, says Dr. Connie Lehman, Chief of the Breast Imaging Clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School. If you’re post-menopausal, Dr. Lehman says you may be able to reduce the frequency of your mammograms to every other year.
Again, this is your choice and should be carefully considered with your doctor. And if you fit into the high-risk category, meaning you have a first-degree relative who has had breast cancer, have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, or had radiation to the chest area when you were young, Dr. Lehman says you should start yearly mammogram screening as early as age 30.
Bottom line: our medical reviewers tell us mammograms are needed regardless of your family history because most women with breast cancer have no family history or other identifiable risk factors. Getting mammograms regularly at the recommended intervals can help spot early signs of anything that may be potentially harmful. This way, you and your doctor can address them right away.
Some doctors have differing opinions about when women should begin having regular mammograms – we asked top doctors to explain both sides of the debate, and when something like a 3D mammogram may be necessary.
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