News & Events

Physician guidance advised when considering mammogram

October 17, 2017

Editor’s Note: The following column is an interactive question and answer feature appearing each month. Readers are encouraged to send health-related questions that will be answered by a local medical professional to info@achosp.org. Today’s question is being answered by Tracy Sinn BS, RT, Imaging Director at Alliance Community Hospital. 

Q. I am a woman in my 40s and am getting conflicting information about when I should get a mammogram. I have had no obvious symptoms and no one in my family has had breast cancer. But several of my friends are urging me to start the screening process. What do you suggest? 

A. By definition, a mammogram is a special breast x-ray that can reveal the presence of small cancers up to two years before they can be felt by you or your health care provider. 

At Alliance Community Hospital, we highly recommend that you talk to your health care provider starting at age 40 to determine when the screening process should begin. We often see women in their 40s begin the process, and while there is conflicting literature out there, there is little question that by age 50, when the incidents of breast cancer show an increase, that you should have scheduled your first mammogram. 

It is important to note that early detection can be critical in future quality of life. 

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is an organization made up of doctors and disease experts who look at research on the best way to prevent diseases and make recommendations on how doctors can help patients avoid diseases or find them early. 

The USPSTF recommends that women who are 50 to 74 years old and are at average risk for breast cancer get a mammogram every two years. Women who are 40 to 49 years old should talk to their doctor or other health care professional about when to start and how often to get a mammogram. Women should weigh the options of screening tests when deciding whether to begin getting mammograms at age 40. 

Mammograms are safe when performed at an accredited facility and Alliance Community Hospital is accredited by the American College of Radiology. While Mammography does use radiation, the risk is very small when performed at an accredited facility. 

While I do not have a specific answer to your question, because every situation is unique, I would like to offer the following information to help guide you in your decision: 

» Early diagnosis of breast cancer saves lives. 

» Most women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease. 

» As you get older, your risk of having breast cancer increases. 

» Mammography is safe, and having a mammogram is easier than you think. 

» Complement your regular mammograms by seeing your doctor or other health care provider on a regular basis, and examining your breasts monthly.

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