Making some sense out of mammogram guidelines

When should you have your first mammogram and how often after that?

Different groups have different recommendations, so it's no wonder so many women
are confused.

Everyone agrees that woman 50 and older should have a mammogram at least every two years.

The American Cancer Society and the experts at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance suggest women with a normal risk of breast cancer have an annual mammogram starting at age 40.

"We know that breast cancer is a fairly young disease," explained Dr. Connie Lehman, a breast cancer expert with Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. "Most years of life lost to breast cancer are in women who are diagnosed in their 40s. This isn't an older disease. So we want these women to be screened."

Dr. Lehman went on to explain that cancers grow more rapidly in women in their 40s than in women in their 50s, 60s and 70s.

"So, if you're going to get screened in your 40s, you should be screened every year," she said.

Dr. Lehman reminds us that digital mammography is a much better screening tool than film, especially for women before menopause and women with dense breast tissue.

More Info: American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Early Detection of Cancer