What Age Should Women Have Their First Mammogram?
Are you experiencing breast pain? Do you feel a lump in your chest or perhaps see red swelling on your chest's skin?
Chances are you might be showing signs of breast cancer. You would be wondering about consulting a doctor and getting a mammogram.
Breast cancer is quite common in women than other cancers. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it's also the major leading cause of death in women.
The question is, at what age should you get your first mammogram, and are you eligible to get one?
What Is A Mammogram?
A mammogram is a tool that displays an X-ray picture of your breast. These are crucially used to detect signs of breast cancer.
The mammogram is probably the best tool used by doctors to detect early signs of breast cancer. They can even detect cancer three years before cancer can be felt.
At What Age Women Should Have Their First Mammogram?
The best age to get a first mammogram or a baseline mammogram is between 40 and 49 years of age.
According to a study by the American Cancer Society, the average woman with breast cancer risk should get yearly mammograms at age 45. (Society, n.d.)
Society also suggests that:
1. Women between 40 to 44 years of age can start their breast cancer screening with mammograms.
2. Women between 45 to 54 years of age should have their mammogram screenings every year.
3. Women from 55 years of age and above should get their mammograms every two years.
Why Can't Young Women Below 40 Get Mammogram?
Mammography might be inept for women aged less than 40 since they have denser breasts. It becomes tough to screen dense breasts properly.
Since the risk of breast cancer is shallow in women aged less than 40, getting a mammogram is usually not recommended.
It also makes mammograms less effective in dense breasts as it becomes difficult to feel a lump or an unusual change in the breasts. For such women, an MRI scan would be preferable.
Symptoms of Breast Cancer
If you are experiencing swelling in your breast, redness over your entire breast, an abnormal nipple discharge, an inverted nipple, or an abrupt change in your breast's shape, you might have breast cancer.
When Should Screening Be Done?
Screening for breast cancer should happen if a woman displays the following factors:
If a woman leads a sedentary lifestyle, uses contraception, has signs of obesity, or drinks heavily, she should be screened as she is on a pedestal of developing breast cancer.
If a woman has a family history of breast cancer, then she should get herself screened
Screening should take place if the woman is in excellent health. All women should know about the general information regarding benefits, risks, and limitations of screening.
Why Is Mammogram Beneficial?
Mammograms have potential benefits for the patient. When a woman begins a mammogram at 40 years of age, improvement in her life years increases by 72%, which is a lot.
Also, getting screened yearly increases a woman's life years by 25 % compared to those who get screened biennially.
Detection of small tumors takes place with the help of a mammogram.
At What Age Should Women Stop Having a Mammogram
According to the American Society of Breast Surgeons, women can continue having mammograms after 75 only if they have life expectancy over ten years of age. (Surgeons, n.d.)
Generally, it is recommendable to stop having mammograms after 75 years of age as there is limited data on women's survival, according to US Preventive Services Task Force. (Force, n.d.)
Types of Mammograms
There are generally two types of mammograms, film-screen mammograms, and digital mammography.
In the case of a film-screen mammogram, the images will be black and white, while in digital mammography, the images are directly in the computer.
Digital mammography is preferable to a film-screen mammogram as specific areas of your breast can be viewed on the computer screen.
However, both film-screen and digital mammography are accurate in breast cancer screening.
Preparation for Mammogram
Before going for mammography, inform your doctor about past surgeries, hormone use, pregnancy, and family history of breast cancer.
It is advisable not to schedule your mammogram a week before your menstrual periods since breasts are tender at this time.
The best time to have a mammogram is a week after your menstrual period stops.
The mammogram procedure begins by positioning your breast in the mammography unit by the technologist.
Afterward, your breast compresses with a plastic paddle. Then the technologist will compress your breast on a unique platform.
X-ray machine aims the X-rays at the breast. An X-ray machine produces radiation that passes through the breast, creating a computerized image that can be viewable on the computer.
Most of these images are stored electronically, which can be accessible for diagnosis.
Mammography might seem a little discomforting for some women as you will feel immediate pressure on your breast while being squeezed by the compression paddle. This compression allows for a better quality of the mammogram.
However, a follow-up exam is recommendable in some instances. The exam takes place if an abnormality is detected and needs further evaluation.