Who should have mammograms and how often?
Women age 40 and older should have a screening mammogram every one to two years, according to the National Cancer Institute. Women who are at increased risk of breast cancer should talk with their doctor about when to begin having screening mammograms and how often to have them.
A screening mammogram is an x-ray that is used to
find breast changes in women who have no signs or
symptoms of breast cancer. Several large studies have
found that screening mammograms reduce breast cancer
deaths among women ages 40 to 69.
Mammograms have limitations as well. Finding a small
tumor does not always mean that a women's life will be
saved. A fast-growing or aggressive cancer may have
already spread to other parts of the body before being
Also, mammograms aren't always accurate. They miss up
to 20 percent of breast cancers that are present at the
time of screening. This happens mostly with younger
women because their breast tissue is often dense, making
it more difficult to see tumors on the x-ray. Mammograms
also may show an abnormality when no cancer is present.
This is most common in younger women, women who have had
previous breast biopsies, women with a family history of
breast cancer, and women who are taking estrogen.
Still, a mammogram, along with a breast exam by a
health professional, is currently the best way to find
breast cancer early.
For more information on mammograms, including where
to get a high-quality mammogram, talk with your doctor
or call the Cancer Information Service at
Source: "Ask the CIS" by the Cancer Information
Service. "Ask the CIS" is distributed by the Cancer
Information Service (CIS) of the Heartland, which
serves Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri & Illinois. The
CIS is a program of the National Cancer Institute.
Call the CIS toll-free at 1-800-4-CANCER
(1-800-422-6237) between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. local
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Last update: Wednesday, November 26, 2008