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The mammogram, which is meant to detect breast cancer as early as possible, can often do so before women are able to feel or detect cancer in any noticeable way themselves. Mammograms are vital screening tests that can save lives.
Most women should start to consider mammograms around age 40, but there’s still some controversy about the age at which you should begin getting mammograms.
Doctors at The Mayo Clinic recommend mammograms to women beginning at age 40, and they emphasize discussing benefits and risks. The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends beginning at age 50, while the American Cancer Society recommends age 45—but both these bodies recognize that earlier screening makes sense for some women with certain risk factors.
Part of the reason Mayo Clinic makes their recommendations is due to research showing that these screenings can decrease deaths from breast cancer by between 15 and 29 percent. At the same time, other studies have thrown some question into the actual connection between mammograms and cancer survival rate—suggesting that the survival rate increases we’re seeing recently are actually due to better treatment processes, not earlier detection.
While this evidence is important to consider, the decision about what age you should start getting mammograms is ultimately up to you and your doctor. Some women might fall under the category of “high-risk” and should consider mammograms at an earlier age. High-risk women include:
Risks of mammograms include:
Speak to your doctor for further recommendations on your specific situation and when to begin mammograms.
“Mammogram at 40? What to Consider.” WebMD. https://blogs.webmd.com/womens-health/2015/07/mammogram-at-40-what-to-consider.html
“Mammogram guidelines: What are they?” The Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/mammogram/expert-answers/mammogram-guidelines/faq-20057759
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.