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In Your 40s? Reconsider the Mammogram

July 01, 2015 2 min read

Though, the pinking of the American consciousness about breast health and cancer awareness has been wonderful for encouraging women to be pro-active about their health. However, the most-touted instrument of detection, the mammogram, may not be for everyone. At least not before 50. Mammogram screening peaked in 2000 when 70.4% of women over 40 had had a mammogram in the previous 2 years. But the cancer mammograms were catching and stopping where the slow-growing ones, not the late-stage ones that continued to climb. In fact, breast cancer deaths are now decreasing, mostly in women under 50 who are least likely to be getting mammograms. In addition, a woman's chance of receiving a false positive for a mammogram in her 40s has dramatically increased due to density of her tissue. According to Prevention magazine, "For mammograms to save the life of one woman between 40 and 49, nearly 2,000 women in that age range have to be screened regularly over 10 years. Meanwhile, by conservative estimates, 20 of those women will have a biopsy, a mastectomy, radiation, or chemo treatment for cancers that never would have progressed, and 1,200 will receive a false positive." In 2013 the Swiss Medical Board reviewed the evidence supporting mammography screening and recommended to stop doing them completely. So what is the value of the mammogram then? Basically, if you're under 50, skipping a mammogram isn't going to increase your risk of dying of breast cancer. BUT, this assumes you're at normal risk. If you have any family history, make sure you are monitoring your breast health. And you are the one who should know your breasts best. Examine them every month and get to know what the natural flux in fullness and soreness is like for your breasts. If anything changes, see a doctor. Get personal with your own risk by discussing with your doctor your family history, the density of your breasts, and your age, says Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, MD, PhD. By fine-tuning your care plan, you are far more likely to know when you're ready to decide  whether or not you'd like to have mammograms as part of your breast health program. Do you examine your breasts every month? Have you had a mammogram or do you think you will begin to have them before age 50? Share your thoughts on this subject that affects all women. h/t: Prevention

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