When Should I Start Getting Mammograms?

Sep 15, 2022
When Should I Start Getting Mammograms?
It can seem like the average age recommended for beginning regular breast cancer screenings changes often. How do you know when you should start? Find out if you should get a mammogram and how it can benefit you.

Mammograms play an integral role in women’s health care. Even though the idea of them may seem scary or uncomfortable, it’s a much-needed and accurate test that screens for breast abnormalities or cancer.

At Women's Specialty Care, we want you to have all the tools you need to be able to assess your risk for breast cancer and be able to detect its onset earlier rather than later. You can easily schedule your first mammogram at the time of your well woman check, or when you are told you are due by your provider. We will compare the studies done in our office with your previous images after the examination. 

What is a mammogram?

A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. It shows the tissue in the breast and helps screen for breast cancer. There are two different types of mammograms that are used: screening mammograms and diagnostic mammograms.

Screening mammograms are used to check for breast cancer in women who don’t have any cancer symptoms. In this case, they’re used as a preventive measure.

Diagnostic mammograms are used to check for breast cancer if you have any symptoms like an abnormal lump, breast pain, or nipple discharge.

Both processes are similar and use the same machine. But while screening mammograms take just two X-rays, diagnostic mammograms go more in depth and take X-rays from several different angles. Our GE Mammography equipment at Women’s Specialty Care produces a 3D image, or tomosynthesis. 

What are the benefits of mammograms?

Mammograms can detect breast cancer up to three years before you’re able to feel it. Studies show that screening mammograms are able to reduce the amount of deaths from breast cancer in women who are at an average risk for developing it.

In addition, mammograms are specifically able to look for any of the following breast abnormalities:

  • Calcifications: calcium deposits that are usually benign but can lead to cancer
  • Asymmetry: if any new asymmetry is noticed in your breasts, it may be a signal that you need more testing
  • Masses: these could include cysts and benign tumors, but any solid masses will probably need more testing

Depending on your test results, your provider will be able to determine if you need any further X-rays or screenings.

When you should start getting mammograms

Factors like health history and genetics can narrow down when exactly you should get your first mammogram. In most cases, though, it’s recommended that you start getting regular mammograms as soon as you turn 40 years old . This screening process should continue every year or two as long as you and your physician determine. Please discuss additional risk factors such as family history and previous biopsy results.

It’s important to keep to a strict regimen because breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women ages 15-39, and 11% of all breast cancers are found in women under the age of 45.

Next steps

If you’re a woman between the ages of 40-80, receiving a regular mammogram is important for your health. 

If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s the right time to get a mammogram, our team at Women’s Specialty Care can help you weigh the risks and benefits of them. Typically the pros and cons are based on your age and personal risk of developing breast cancer.

You can book a consultation with us by calling 847-295-0433 or by booking an appointment online.