Mammograms are a special kind of x-ray procedure used to scan the breasts and take a picture so that it can be read by a radiologist to check for breast cancer or other types of breast problems. Some women get them every year as part of their women’s wellness checkups. However, some people question if getting these tests are really needed annually and if the radiation danger warrants not getting them that often.
Who Should Get Mammograms?
Health providers encourage women to get mammograms for several reasons, most especially if a woman has found a lump while doing monthly self-breast exams. Also, it is a good idea to get mammograms if there is a history of breast cancer in the woman’s family, as this can make her more prone to getting breast cancer during her life. If any woman in their family was diagnosed with breast cancer, then the women in that family should get screened for breast cancer annually, unless otherwise recommended by their doctors.
A woman or her doctor won’t be able to feel a lump until it is at least a few centimeters in size, and once that occurs, the breast cancer has already gotten to stage two out of the four stages of cancer. A mammogram, however, can find a lump long before this and so the woman would have better odds of surviving breast cancer as a result of the medical information gotten from the scan.
Women who are post-menopausal should also get mammograms at least every two years, as this procedure works well in detecting breast cancer in this type of women. They should also continue to do breast exams every month as part of her health and wellness activities. Another group of women that mammograms work well for are women who are over 40 years old.
A study done in Sweden showed that 29 percent of the women who got annual mammograms in their 40s, and 10 percent over 50, were able to have breast cancer detected early and at a stage where it could be successfully treated.
Should Younger Women Get Mammograms?
While studies have shown that mammograms may be valuable for women over 40, it is not certain how valuable they are for women under 40. There are mixed reviews in answering this question. On one hand, women under 40 have breasts that are denser than older women, therefore a mammogram might not work as well on them as it will on an older woman.
The American Cancer Society says that women ages 20 to 40 should do monthly breast exams to check for lumps or other signs of breast cancer. The best day to do this is the day after their period ends each month. They recommend starting at 40, to get a mammogram, but if there is cause for getting one prior to this age, such as family history, it should be discussed with their doctors to see if the risk of radiation from the mammogram is worth the possible risk of breast cancer.
All women should follow a nutritious diet and exercise program and talk to their doctors about whether or not they should get an annual mammogram. Integrative medicine is a proponent of regular mammograms, especially for those with a family history of breast cancer.
To learn more about how to eat right and attain health and wellness for your body and mind, contact Dr. Jorge Bordenave today at Miami Integrative Medicine and set up an appointment for a health care consultation.