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When Should You Get a Mammogram?

Woman at desk researching when should you get a mammogram

Your First Mammogram

When it comes to medical advice about breast cancer and mammography, there is plenty to go around, and depending on where you get your information, it can sometimes be confusing. So, what are the current recommendations regarding breast cancer screening, what is the right mammogram screening age, and how often should you have a mammogram?

Mammogram Screening Guidelines

Mammograms are an important tool in detecting breast cancer. If you follow the guidelines for mammography, you are more likely to detect early breast cancer before it has spread, and you may be able to detect it before you have any obvious signs or symptoms of breast cancer. Detecting breast cancer early improves your odds of effective treatment.

The guidelines from the breast cancer specialists including the American College of Radiology (ACR), the Society of Breast Imaging (SBI) and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) are annual screening mammography beginning at age 40 for asymptomatic women.

If you are symptomatic, you need a diagnostic mammogram.

If you are at higher risk due to genetic or other factors, please consult with your physician as to when you should start screening since it is often before age 40.  Talk with your doctor about your personal and family history of cancer and your own risk factors, and decide together what’s best for you.

3-D mammography (tomosynthesis) is another tool to image the breast. It takes individual slice pictures through the breast. It has been shown to be of benefit in all women but especially those with dense breasts, are at high risk for breast cancer or are having their first mammogram.

Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer

Early breast cancer is difficult to detect without breast exams and imaging tests, which is why it is important to have annual breast exams, do monthly breast self-exams, and to have your scheduled mammograms and other recommended imaging tests. However, there are some signs and symptoms of breast cancer you should know and look for.

Changes in the way your breasts or nipples look

  • A change in the size or shape of your breast that can’t be explained by pregnancy or surgery.
  • A dimple or dimples anywhere on the breast.
  • Breast swelling that can’t be explained, especially on one side.
  • Breast shrinking that can’t be explained, especially on one side.
  • A noticeable change in the symmetry of your breasts (if one is bigger than the other).
  • An inverted or inward turning nipple.
  • Scaly, swollen, or red areas of the skin on the breast, nipple, or areola (there may be pitting or ridges on the skin too).

Changes in the way your breasts or nipples feel

  • Breast pain or unexplained tenderness which is focal and persistent.
  • A lump or thickening in the breast or near the breast in the underarm area.
  • A breast lump (even a tiny one).
  • Anything that feels different on the skin or in the tissue of the breast.

Nipple discharge

  • Any discharge from the nipple when not pregnant or breastfeeding should be evaluated, even if you believe it’s just milk. Bloody and clear discharge are especially concerning.

Any of the above signs and symptoms should be evaluated by your doctor, and they may be a reason for a mammogram or other diagnostic breast imaging test, such as a breast ultrasound or breast MRI. Call Beaumont at 800-328-8542 today to schedule your next mammogram at Beaumont.