With SMH Breast Cancer Nurse Navigator Veronica Martinez
“When it comes to breast cancer, the best prevention is early detection,” explained Sarasota Memorial Breast Cancer patient navigator Veronica Martinez. “And for most women, yearly screening mammograms are the best tools for early detection.”
Mammograms allow healthcare providers to find breast cancer early, before symptoms arise and when it is most treatable, Martinez added.
However, there’s been discussion in recent years about whether mammograms are effective in detecting breast cancer at an early age and whether women with no known risk factors benefit from early screening.
Mammography has been proven to save lives, but for women ages 40 to 49, the benefits aren’t as evident as they are for older women. That’s because women in their 40s have a lower risk of developing the disease and have denser breast tissue, which can make it harder to see abnormalities. There’s also a higher rate of false-positive results from younger women’s mammograms, which can lead to unnecessary follow-up tests.
As a result, different organizations offer different recommendations on who should get mammograms and how often. For example, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force doesn’t recommend routine mammography until women are 50 years old. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommends routine mammography beginning at age 40. The American Cancer Society recommends that women age 45 to 54 get a mammogram every year but that women who are 40 to 44 years old consider breast cancer screenings as optional.
These varied screening mammogram guidelines certainly can be confusing. So how do you know what to do?
Sarasota Memorial Cancer Institute Recommendations
The Breast Cancer Care team at Sarasota Memorial recommends that all women 40 and older have a screening mammogram every year and that women ages 25 to 39 have a clinical breast exam every one to three years.
Some women may require screenings beginning at an earlier age or on a more frequent schedule, based on factors such as personal or family history, genetic tendency or other risk factors.
So, it’s best to discuss the risks and benefits with your primary care doctor or gynecologist to determine when is the best time to begin mammograms and how often you should get them, based on your personal breast cancer risk profile.
Learn More about Mammograms
Click here to learn more about breast cancer screening services at Sarasota Memorial, or click here for more information about the different types of imaging technology used to screen for breast cancer.
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Date Last Reviewed: September 12, 2019
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD