When should you get a mammogram?

The current recommendations for breast cancer screening, the appropriate mammogram screening age, and how frequently to have a mammogram can be perplexing. Because there are so many different sources of information, it can be difficult to understand. But today, our Ottawa radiologists will try and distill all of this into easy-to-understand information so you can make an informed decision about your health.

What age are mammograms most effective?

Breast cancer is a serious health concern for women, and mammograms are an important tool for prevention and early detection. While new research is constantly being published, we do know that breast cancer can develop in even healthy young women. This is why it's recommended that women should have mammograms starting at age 40.

Early detection is key to successful treatment, and mammograms are the best method for detecting breast cancer in its early stages. While some may argue that the risks of radiation exposure from mammograms outweigh the benefits, the truth is that the risk is very low and far outweighed by the potential benefits of early detection.

How often should I have a mammogram?

Women who have a family history of breast cancer or other risk factors may need to start getting mammograms earlier or more frequently, but for most women, mammograms every two years starting at age 40 are a crucial part of maintaining good breast health. 

Why get a mammogram?

Here is a list of the top 5 reasons to get a mammogram.

1. Mammograms lower your risk of dying from breast cancer.

While physical exams are an important tool for detecting breast cancer, they may not always be sufficient. This is where advanced detection methods, such as mammography and other imaging techniques, come into play.

These methods can detect even the smallest areas of breast cancer, allowing for earlier diagnosis and more effective treatment options. Early detection is crucial in improving long-term survival rates for breast cancer patients, as it allows for more aggressive treatment options that can target the cancer before it has a chance to spread. With the help of advanced detection methods, women can take control of their health and ensure that they receive the best possible care in the fight against breast cancer. 

2. The risks of breast cancer increase with age.

 Starting at age 40, it is critical to have breast cancer screenings every year. Some of the most significant risk factors are being a woman and getting older.

However, there are some other risk factors, including:

  • Obesity
  • Alcohol use
  • Physical inactivity
  • Family history

Just because there's no family history of breast cancer doesn't mean you're in the clear, though. A significant amount of women with breast cancer have no family history of the disease. They are still at risk of developing it themselves even if no one in their family has it.

3. It only takes about 20 minutes.

Getting a mammogram may not be the most comfortable procedure, but it is an important step in taking care of your health. The procedure only takes about 20 minutes. While it may be uncomfortable or even painful for some women, the benefits of early detection far outweigh any temporary discomfort.

4. Mammograms are safe.

Despite concerns about radiation exposure, the amount of radiation during a mammogram is minimal and poses little risk to patients. In fact, the amount of radiation exposure during the procedure is less than that of a standard chest X-ray.

5. Be a role model.

By taking care of yourself, you're also setting an example for the women in your life. You can encourage your mother, sister, daughter, and friends to get their mammograms too. It's a small act that can have a big impact on your health and the health of those you love. Make it a priority to schedule your annual mammogram and remind the women in your life to do the same.

FAQs Regarding Mammograms

Here are the most frequently asked questions we get regarding mammograms.

  • Why would you need a mammogram?

    Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer among women worldwide. This non-invasive procedure is a vital tool in detecting and screening breast cancer at an early stage. This test uses low-dose radiation to produce detailed images of the breast tissue, allowing doctors to identify any abnormalities that may indicate the presence of cancer. It is recommended that women over the age of 40 should have an annual mammogram to increase their chances of early detection and successful treatment.

  • What conditions are detected in a mammogram?

    Mammograms are used to screen for breast cancer. However, a diagnostic mammogram can be used to look into suspicious breast changes like a new breast lump, breast pain, unusual skin appearance, nipple thickening, or nipple discharge. It's also used to assess unusual findings on a screening mammogram.

  • Is it normal to worry about a mammogram?

    Absolutely. Worry, nervousness, anxiety, and ambivalence are all common and normal things to feel during a mammogram.

    But whatever you're feeling, our team is here to help guide you through the process and to try and make you feel at ease, safe, and comfortable.

  • Is an ultrasound better than a mammogram?

    It really depends. There are far too many differences between women to say that one is superior to the other.

    Although ultrasound is not the primary screening tool for breast cancer, it can supplement breast cancer screening tools when used in conjunction with mammography. Having said that, It can be ordered when a mammogram reveals an abnormality.

  • Is 30 too early for a mammogram?

    It's true that we recommend screening for breast cancer starting at age 40. Breast cancer, however, can strike at any age. All women should be aware of their personal risk factors.

    For younger women, this can include:

    • A high-risk lesion found by biopsy
    • A family history of breast cancer, particularly at an early age
    • A family history of cancers or cancer diagnosed at an early age (breast cancer diagnosed before age 50, ovarian cancer at any age, triple negative breast cancer, bilateral breast cancer, male breast cancer, pancreatic cancer or metastatic prostate cancer)

    If you're concerned, speak with your doctor. They should be able to provide you with guidance on when you should start booking your mammograms.

Is it time for your mammogram? Contact our Ottawa team today to schedule your mammogram.

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