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When Should I Start Getting Mammograms?

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An estimated 264,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer annually. Women in their 40s need to add mammograms to their preventive health care plan to lower the risk for complications.

Mammograms are a preventive screening that can identify early signs of breast cancer. Typically, the earlier you get a breast cancer diagnosis, the easier the disease is to treat it.

At Mass Medical Imaging, our radiology and diagnostic imaging expert Joseph Calandra, MD, offers on-site mammograms. You can also meet with our board-certified OB/GYN Karen Mass, MD, to discuss when you should start scheduling mammogram appointments.

Breast cancer screening guidelines

In general, women over the age of 40, that are otherwise healthy should schedule a mammogram every year. Regular mammograms give our physicians the opportunity to monitor changes in your breast health from one visit to the next.

If you have a family history of breast cancer or other risk factors for the disease, you may need to begin getting mammograms earlier, usually around age 35. You may need annual mammograms from then on.

Dr. Mass can determine how often you need a mammogram based on your personal and family medical history and can recommend the timeline for your screenings after reviewing your risk factors for breast cancer. She also offers manual breast screenings to check for abnormalities in the breast tissue.

What to expect during a mammogram

A mammogram is a diagnostic X-ray of the breast that can identify breast cancer tumors deep within the tissue that you may not be able to feel during a manual exam. Early diagnosis can prevent complications, including premature death in women with breast cancer.

During a mammogram, you stand in front of a large X-ray machine while our technician positions one of your breasts between plastic plates attached to the device.

You stand still and hold your breath for a few moments while the machine takes images of your breast. The technician repeats the process on the other side.

Mammograms generally don’t take much time to complete. You may have minor discomfort when the plastic plates press down on your breast tissue, but the screening isn’t invasive.

Getting your mammogram results

After Dr. Calandra reviews your mammogram results, we contact you with the results and let you know how to move forward.

Normal mammogram results mean there are no findings of abnormal tissue in your breast. You won’t need further testing and can continue to follow your usual mammogram schedule.

If your results are abnormal, don’t panic. An abnormal mammogram doesn’t mean you have cancer, but you can expect to have follow-up testing. Women with dense breast tissue may require additional tests like an ultrasound of your breast to see potentially cancerous lumps.

You may also need a biopsy. This procedure involves a minor surgery to remove a small amount of breast tissue. We can also use a hollow needle to remove a sample.

Our providers look at the sample under a microscope to identify cancer cells. If cancer is present, our physicians can discuss your options for treatment and refer you to a specialist for additional care.

Call Mass Medical Imaging in Lake Forest, Illinois, to schedule your next mammogram or book an appointment online today.