Mammograms are not an easy test to go through. They require women to position their breasts on two firm surfaces, place their arms at certain angles, and hold still for a period of time while the radiologist takes images of the breast tissue.
It is for this reason that physicians recommend that women get screened every year. Researchers have discovered that there are many benefits associated with yearly mammography screenings. For example, more than ten years ago, researchers found that more women, 12%, were diagnosed with breast cancer through mammogram screening in Fair Lawn, NJ than in any other way. Although mammography seems like it may be harmful in some cases because it uses ionizing radiation, research has shown decreased death rates in patients who went through early detection using mammograms than those who did not.
Although it is recommended that women get yearly mammograms to monitor their breast health, this may not be the best way to go through screenings. Researchers have found that it is important for clinicians to communicate with patients about the risks and benefits of mammography so that they can make informed decisions about screening. Another huge factor in the age group of women who should be screened by mammograms shows that researchers found no evidence to support screenings before age 50. Despite this newer evidence, researchers still recommend yearly mammograms beginning at age 40 because there are benefits associated with earlier detections.
Another fact that has been discovered is that there are times when a woman may want to delay her next mammogram or stop getting them all together after she has been screened for breast cancer. This decision should be made on a case-by-case basis after discussions between the woman and her clinician. Clinicians should help women understand when they may be at an increased risk for developing breast cancer and when they may want to get screened more often.
Mammography screenings are not one size fits all, and it is important for clinicians and patients to work together to make informed decisions about screenings. Women should feel empowered to ask their clinician questions about mammograms and their health so that they can be sure they are making the best decisions for themselves.