Why You Should Schedule Your Mammogram
Did you know you don't need a referral or prescription from your doctor to get a mammogram? It's true! Women over 40 who are not experiencing symptoms can take the initiative to schedule their annual mammogram.
Why is this important? Annual mammograms are the best tool for early detection of breast cancer, and most cancers detected by mammography have no symptoms.
Recently, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued new recommendations for breast cancer screening. These recommendations lowered the age at which women should start screening from 50 to 40 years old. They also recommend screening mammograms every other year from ages 40 to 74.
Why are these recommendations important? It's important to understand that there isn't a consensus on screening guidelines, as different organizations weigh the benefits of screening against potential harms like false positives and overtreatment. These differences highlight the unique perspectives and approaches of each organization. While the USPSTF's recommended age change to 40 is significant progress toward a consensus, some experts believe annual screening is critically important. Annual screening improves the chance of a cure, reduces the need for extensive treatments, and ultimately enhances the quality of life for women diagnosed with breast cancer.
If you are in your 40s and haven't started screening, it's essential to have a conversation with your doctor about your personal risk for breast cancer and determine an ideal screening schedule during your next appointment. On the other hand, if you're under 40, it's recommended to have a breast cancer risk assessment by age 25. This assessment, especially for Black women and women of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, helps identify individuals with a higher risk for the disease and may warrant earlier screening.
Ultimately, stay informed about the latest screening recommendations, consult your healthcare provider, and be proactive in monitoring your breast health. Pay attention to any changes in your breasts and report any suspicious findings to your doctor. By taking control of your health and being proactive about screenings, you empower yourself with knowledge and increase the chances of early detection, which can save lives.
Remember, your health is a priority, and scheduling your mammogram can make a significant difference in detecting breast cancer early.