There has recently been quite a bit of controversy surrounding when, and how often, women should get a mammogram. The American Cancer Society used to recommend that women start getting annual mammograms at age 40, but this recommendation has recently been changed to recommend that women begin annual mammograms starting at age 45. Also, recently the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force reviewed the latest research findings on the subject and currently recommends that women begin regular mammography screening at age 50, with a frequency of once every two years rather than annually.
It’s important to note that these recommendations apply to women with an average risk of developing breast cancer, not to women who are high-risk due to family history and/or genetics. The bottom line, however, is that age is not the only reason you may need a mammogram. No matter how old you are, if you’ve ever wondered “do I need a mammogram?”, check out the following telltale signs that a mammogram may be needed.
Detecting a lump
Breasts can be lumpy for a variety of reasons, most of which are benign. However, if you detect a lump in your breast that you haven’t noticed before, no matter your age, you should get a mammogram.
Change in breast size
It is quite common for breasts to be different sizes, but if you notice one of your breasts rapidly increasing in size in a relatively short amount of time, this could be a possible indicator of breast cancer.
Unless you are lactating, there should be no discharge from your nipples. If you notice discharge, discoloration of the nipples (specifically thickening or reddening), or nipple inversion, these are signs that something is amiss.
Swelling or “dimpling” of the breast
If you experience swelling in any area of your breast, this is not normal. The swelling may be accompanied by your breast feeling warm or inflamed. Also, if you notice the skin on your breast “dimpling,” this warrants a screening.
Breast pain is normal and can be caused by fluctuating hormones, wearing an ill-fitting bra, or even stress. However, if you experience throbbing pain or unusual aches or discomfort, confer with your doctor to see if a mammogram is needed.
If it turns out you need a mammogram, don’t panic. You may be wondering, “exactly what is a mammogram, anyway?” It’s just a simple procedure during which you stand in front of an x-ray machine and your breast is compressed between the x-ray machine and a plastic plate to flatten it for a better picture. The doctor then examines the x-rays to detect possible signs of cancer.
If you’re younger than 40 and don’t have a family history of breast cancer, chances are you won’t need a mammogram anytime soon. Just keep an eye out for the warning signs listed above, and talk to your doctor if you have concerns! Connect with our Women's Imaging radiologists today.