When to Get a Mammogram? It's Personal

A woman of color holding a pink ribbon

See all the pink ribbons of October? They’re asking if you’ve had your annual gynecological checkup and scheduled your routine mammogram yet.

The ribbons might seem too familiar by now, but pink still packs a punch against breast cancer. It still needs to, as 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetimes. And, according to the American College of Radiology, 75% has no family history of the disease.

When to Screen

Mammogram is the mother of all screening tests for breast cancer. This non-invasive X-ray of the breast and its surrounding tissue takes about 10 minutes to complete. All U-M health plans cover mammograms as preventive care, so there’s no member copay.

According to the Susan G. Komen organization, clinical guidelines for when and which type of mammogram to receive depends on individual risk factors. In general: 

  • If you’re at average risk, get a screening mammogram every year starting at age 40.
  • If you’re at higher risk due to family history or other factors, consult with your doctor regarding type of mammogram (screening vs. diagnostic) and frequency.
  • If you’re a man with a genetic disposition for breast cancer, consult your doctor about appropriate screenings for breast and other cancers.
  • If you’re transgender, your risk is determined by age, gender assigned at birth, family history and more. Keep an ongoing discussion about your risk with your doctor.

When Abnormal is Normal

Sometimes, your mammogram will show abnormal results. This is actually quite common, especially if you have dense breasts, are younger than 40, or have had prior injury or surgery in the breasts. Other times, non-cancerous growths such as cysts, calcifications and other lumps show on a mammogram.

If your results are abnormal, you’ll be asked to return for another test, which could include diagnostic mammogram, ultrasound or MRI. Even though only 10% of abnormal results are cancer, immediate follow up is crucial, just in case.

The Sooner, the Better

Early detection of any type of cancer plays a role in successful treatment, and breast cancer is no exception. According to the American Cancer Society, when breast cancer is found early without spreading to other parts of the body, the 5-year survival rate is 99%. 

More at MHealthy

MHealthy, in partnership with the U-M Rogel Cancer Center, has compiled a collection of cancer prevention resources to help you determine when you should have your first mammogramwhat to expect during a screeningwhat to know about male breast cancer, and more.

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