Are You Too Young For a Mammogram?

group of women wearing pink

Everyone knows that a mammogram is an essential health screening for women, but most people don't know when they should start. How often do you need to get a mammogram? Are you too young to get one?

Here are the facts you need to know.

Regular Mammograms
In general, women over the age of 40 should start seeing their doctor for regular breast cancer screenings. This is due, in part, to the way a woman's body changes at this age, as well as weighing the risk versus the gain of exposure to radiation for the test.

Recently, the American Cancer Society actually raised the recommended age to begin mammograms. Previously, mammogram screening was recommended at age 40. This has now been raised to 45. This is only for women who have what is considered an 'average risk' for breast cancer.

Knowing if You're At Risk
No one wants to get medical tests done that they don't really need. Fortunately, there are some clear guidelines to help you know whether or not you should be getting mammogram examinations earlier or more often than normal. These factors include:

  •     History of breast cancer for yourself or a family member
  •     History of certain noncancerous breast diseases
  •     Having a specific genetic defect
  •     Starting your period at a young age (specifically before the age of 12)

There are some other risk factors that could put you in the "at risk" category, including being over the age of 30 when you had your first child, as well as factors like a high intake of red meat, heavy alcohol use, obesity, and race.

If you feel that you are in one of those categories, or you have family or personal medical history that puts you at risk, it is best to talk to your doctor about whether or not you should start having mammograms earlier than the recommended age.

What is Right for You
Early detection of any kind of cancer gives you the best prognosis for treatment, and the best chance of the cancer not recurring.

If detected early enough, treatment options may be a lumpectomy, which involves removing the lump (and any surrounding tissue). If left to spread, breast cancer may not be treatable even with a full mastectomy (removing the whole breast) or may return even after extensive treatment.

If you have noticed lumps in a breast, even if they are small lumps and you think they may be normal, it is important to see a doctor right away. Don't wait to make your appointment at SwedishAmerican Hospital today and let one of our expert doctors determine what the best course of action for you is right away.