Regularly screening for breast cancer saves lives. Learn when to begin receiving mammograms, and how often to get them.

According to guidelines from the American Cancer Society, women between 40 and 44 have the option to start screening with a mammogram every year; women 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year; and women 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every other year or choose to continue receiving yearly mammograms.

Women at a high risk for breast cancer should get a breast MRI and a mammogram every year, usually starting at age 30. This group includes women with a strong family history of breast cancer, women who have a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation or have a first-degree relative with one, and those with Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Cowden syndrome, or Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome. Risk of breast cancer is calculated based on a number of factors and needs to be discussed with your physician so that you can work together on a screening plan.

Mammograms will show breast changes such as calcifications, masses, asymmetries, and distortions. They will not be able to confirm whether an area is cancerous, but they help health care providers decide if more testing is needed.

If you have had breast cancer, whether or not you need to keep getting mammograms might depend on the type of surgery you had.

If you have breast implants, you can and should still get mammograms, but you might need to have extra pictures taken so the doctor can see as much breast tissue as possible.  

A diagnostic mammogram, unlike a screening mammogram, is used to look at a woman’s breast if she has breast symptoms or if something unusual is seen on a screening mammogram. These tests may include extra views of the breast that aren’t part of screening mammograms.

Remember, these are just guidelines! Please consult with your health care provider to decide how frequently you should receive mammograms or any other type of preventative screening.

For more information on breast MRIs and mammograms, read out article What Is the Difference Between Breast MRIs and Mammograms?.

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