Put Your Mammogram Appointment on the Top of Your To-Do List Today
By Elizabeth Revesz, MD, Virtua Breast Surgeon
If you can’t remember the last time you had a mammogram, you’re in good company. Studies have found that at least one in four eligible women don’t get regular breast screenings.
Mammograms are invaluable—even lifesaving—as they can catch breast cancer early, when it’s most easily treated. And, a mammogram can detect a lump long before it can be felt during a physical examination, greatly improving your odds of survival.
Mammography uses X-rays to look for abnormal growths or changes in breast tissue and ducts. Since a mammogram is a screening tool, it can be used to identify suspicious areas, but not to diagnose breast cancer. To make a definitive diagnosis, your health care provider will order additional testing.
When should I get my mammogram?
For women at average risk, the American Cancer Society recommends:
- Women between 40 and 44 have the option to start screening with a mammogram every year.
- Women 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
- Women 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every other year, or they can choose to continue yearly mammograms. Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health.
Some women—because of family history, a genetic tendency, or certain other factors—should get a breast MRI and a mammogram yearly, beginning at age 30. This includes women who:
- Have a lifetime risk for breast cancer of about 20 to 25% or greater based on family history
- Have a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation
- Have a first-degree relative (parent, brother, sister, or child) with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation
- Had radiation therapy to the chest when they were between the ages of 10 and 30
It’s also a good idea to know how your breasts normally look and feel so you can alert your doctor if anything changes.
Take the time for this important screening
Mammography takes about 20 minutes. While it does briefly compress the breast, technicians try to minimize your discomfort. You’re only exposed to a small amount of radiation, typically less than a standard chest X-ray.
If a suspicious spot is found, it doesn’t mean you have cancer. Your health care provider will use other tests, such as a more detailed mammogram, breast ultrasound, breast MRI, or biopsy, to learn more information or to make a diagnosis.
While it’s easy to forget to make your mammogram appointment, it truly is your best defense against breast cancer. If you want to “memory proof” it, set an annually recurring reminder in your phone to schedule next year’s appointment.
Schedule your mammogram today
Virtua’s breast health program offers the latest imaging technology, including 3-D mammography, breast ultrasound, and MRI.
Call 888-847-8823 to schedule your appointment today.
Updated October 14, 2020