Screening Mammograms: When Do I Start Getting Them?

should you start getting mammograms at

40 45 50 what is this so confusing we

will teach you all about it


both women and physicians are confused

and frustrated by the rollout of new

guidelines about when to start getting

screening mammograms and whether to get

them every year or every other year or

some other recommendation there is a

rationale for starting screening

mammograms later than 40 which is the

generally accepted guideline for many

years but I'm gonna explain to you why

we recommend you continue getting

screening mammograms every year starting

at 40 until the dust settles on the

issue in this lesson I'm going to show

you how mammograms save lives I'm also

going to go over some of the actual

risks of getting screening mammograms

I'm going to review some of the new

guidelines and the controversies

associated with them and I'm going to

teach you how to engage your physicians

so you can make the best decisions

before yourself so let's get started

so how do screening mammograms save


well getting a mammogram when you don't

have a lump in your breast a screening

mammogram once a year when you have no

symptoms helps detect small breast

cancers and pre cancers before you or

your doctor can detect them and it makes

sense breast cancers when they're

earlier or less of a threat to you and

smaller breast cancers we can cure more

often than larger breast cancers so why

the controversy well it is kind of


and next I'm explaining to you the risk

of getting screening mammograms their

risk to getting a screening mammogram

well there are and I'm going to walk you

through them screening mammography

getting a mammogram every year when you

don't have any symptoms is really a

balance between the benefits saving

lives finding cancers earlier versus the

risk which would be the cost

the stress and anxiety of having extra

biopsies or the radiation from the

mammography so let me walk you through

some of the risks that are talked about

the most callbacks so when you undergo a

mammogram they take two views of each

breast you walk out the door and you get

a letter saying come on back we want to

take a little look into your breast the

radiologist a little bit worried about

something I wanted to clarify something

well that's stressful it also is

increased radiation to your breast and

nothing's found and you kind of feel

like you go through the wringer and

you're relieved but still you're put

through a process that's pretty common

biopsies 80% of all breast biopsies are

benign not cancerous so there are a lot

of biopsies that we order and recommend

based on something on a screening

mammogram that proved to be nothing so

there's an argument that many of these

biopsies were not needed to find cancer

some benign biopsies the stress and

anxiety of undergoing a mammogram the

discomfort callbacks biopsies all of

that but the personal distress there's a

financial cost sometimes to you and to

society of getting mammograms every year

for so many women and then there's an

argument that some cancers would be

detected earlier but even if they're

detected in six months when doctors

could feel them or you could feel them

both would be cured it's a weird

argument it's hard to apply to

individuals so there's a lot of concern

about screening mammograms and whether

the risk

Orla less than the benefits that's where

mammogram screening guidelines come in

to give recommendations looking at all

of the benefits in the risk and that's

what I'm going to cover next and

unfortunately they're still confusing so

what are the new guidelines or

recommendations for getting screening

mammograms when to start how frequently

to get them

well guidelines are issued by

well-meaning societies and governmental

organizations composed of smart

physicians nurses epidemiologists public

policy people

number crunchers to make recommendations

and for many many many years the gold

standard was really considered the

American Cancer Society's

recommendations get a mammogram at the

age of 40 and annually going forward

simple to follow easy to remember it


about five years ago the United States

Preventive Services Task Force say that

fast issued new guidelines suggesting

that women start Mamet mammograms at the

age of 50 in between 50 and 74 get a

mammogram every other year and something

different afterwards and no

recommendation in there when women are

in their 40s except for if they're

deemed at high risk but there's no

standard way to identify people that are

at high risk that created a big uproar a

lot of confusion it was so complicated

that physicians didn't learn it patients

couldn't learn and there's a lot of

political fallout a few years later the

American Cancer Society also issued new

guidelines beginning meant recommending

beginning mammograms at the age of 45

and every year until 55 and after 55

every other year and then that was also

confusing all of this is important to

put together is that all these

recommendations suggest that physicians

identify women that are considered

high-risk in their lifetime for getting

breast cancer and that is a difficult

task to really quantitate and figure out

whether a woman's high risk to get

mammograms on 40s based on the new

guidelines or a little elevated risk but

not high enough to do this so the

guidelines suggest beginning mammography

later identifying women that are at high

risk but all of it's so confusing it's

really created a lot of havoc in

healthcare so next I'm going to tell you

some general principles about getting

screening mammograms that we suggest

that incorporate all of

these principles what is the take-home

message about getting screaming

mammograms well making informed

decisions which is the principle behind

a breast cancer school for patients

applies here educate yourself you're

already doing this by watching this

video read through our content and the

links great links to many different

sites on this topic and look elsewhere

engage your physicians they know you

best ask them what their recommendation

is in general ask them what their

recommendation is for you maybe you're a

higher risk maybe you're a lower risk

ask them if they feel the benefits

outweigh the risk is starting at 40 or

45 or 50 so stepping back I'm doing my

best to make it simple is this these are

a couple principles

number one I generally recommend because

people or individuals not just society

it's easier to recommend something for

everyone but what you have to make a

decision about yourself that's a

different story start mammograms get

them annually at 40 until the dust

settles if you're in this camp where you

don't think that you're at high risk and

you want to avoid mammograms you don't

like the feel of our painful or you're

worried about the radiation or the risk

then maybe you start at 45 or 50 engage

your doctor and there's a rationale

behind that if you're at high risk you

carry the breast cancer gene or you had

biopsies that tell you're at high risk

where you have a very strong family

history of breast cancer ovarian cancer

and other things then I would certainly

err on screening earlier start in 40 and

going forward but again most importantly

engage your physicians on the topic ask

them what they think share them with

with them your thoughts and concerns and

make an informed decision for yourself

to learn more about when to start

screening mammograms visit the breast

cancer school for patients where we will

teach you everything you need to know

we're here to help you get the best

possible breast cancer care in your

community register on our website to get

our list of questions to prepare you for

your next doctor visit