When Should You Start Getting Breast Cancer Screenings?
Optimal breast health is an essential element of every woman’s general well-being. With regular breast screenings, your health care provider can detect any abnormalities in breast tissue, such as lumps. Depending on your age, your physician may perform a clinical breast exam (CBE), a mammogram or both, to detect abnormalities.
In a CBE, your provider will use her hand to feel around your armpit and breasts for hardened tissue. A mammogram is a technical procedure that uses a machine to compress your breasts to take high-quality images of your breast tissue.
So, at what age should you begin getting CBEs and mammograms? We’ve compiled a list of the suggested ages for breast screenings, for women of average-risk for breast cancer, from various breast health awareness foundations:
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) suggests young women first visit a gynecologist between 13 and 15 years-old.
This initial visit typically won’t involve any type of physical exam unless the patient is experiencing issues. However, the main reason for these early visits is so the patient can form a relationship with her gynecologist, ask questions and be educated about her health and well-being.
At 20 years-old, the MD Anderson Cancer Center suggests getting a CBE every one to three years. However, Susan G. Komen reports women of average-risk should begin receiving annual CBEs at 25 years-old.
If a physician doesn’t provide a CBE in your annual check-up, you can request one. The CBE can typically be performed by any medical professional who’s been trained to perform the procedure.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) suggests women begin getting annual mammograms at 45 years-old. However, even during mammogram screening years, women are suggested to continue the annual CBE.
Women 55 years-old and older may continue annual mammograms or switch to receiving the screening every two years, according to ACS.
The National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) suggests women of all ages perform breast self-exams once per month. Checking your breasts regularly helps you become familiar with your breasts and how they normally feel. Your breasts undergo changes during your period and may feel different throughout the month.
WebMD reports eight out of 10 breast lumps aren’t cancerous. However, the institution says, “It’s more common for [lumps] to be a cyst (a sac) or a fibroadenoma (an abnormal growth that’s not cancer). Some lumps come and go during a woman’s menstrual cycle.”
Performing monthly breast self-exams at home allows you to become accustomed to how your breasts feel throughout your menstrual cycle.
Do not simply go by the suggested ages for your breast health screenings. It’s important to visit your healthcare provider annually, so you can proactively care for your breasts together. Building that relationship with your provider allows him to get to know your body and for you to become comfortable and trusting of him. And, depending on your family’s breast health history, your provider may request a different breast screening schedule. For example, he may suggest you start receiving mammograms earlier than the average-risk woman.