When to undergo Mammography?

By  , Expert Content
Oct 05, 2012

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Mamma in Latin means breast; a mammogram is a type of X-ray which is used to diagnose breast disease especially cancer. Breast cancer is a common type of cancer in women which affects one in eight women during their lives. Mammography can help to detect breast cancer in early stages and the amount of X-ray exposure during a mammography is limited.


[Read: Know What is Mammography]


The aim of screening by mammography is to detect the cancer in early stages before it spreads. If the cancer is detected at an early stage it is likely to be smaller, with limited spread to lymph nodes and adjacent tissue and therefore more likely to be responsive to treatment as compared to cancers detected by women through self-examination. As breast cancer can be detected at early stage with mammography, women are recommended to go for regular mammography to diagnose breast cancer. Read to know when to undergo mammography.

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of United States of America screening mammograms should be done for:

  • women more than 40 years of age. They should have a screening mammogram every 1 to 2 years since age is the strongest risk factor for breast cancer. The older a woman is, the higher is the risk of developing the disease. Breast cancer has been observed to occur most often in women over the age of 50 and is relatively uncommon in women under the age of 40 years.
  • women younger than 40 who are at higher than average risk of breast cancer should consult a doctor regarding her need to have mammograms and how often to should they be screened.


[Read: When to Follow-Up after Mammography?]


Some factors which increase the risk of breast cancer and indicate the need of screening from an earlier age;

  • Family history of breast cancer i.e history of breast cancer in mother or sisters or grandmother, aunts). The risk is especially higher if they were diagnosed before age 50. In fact the risk is increased even if you have a close male blood relative with breast cancer.
  • Women who have an abnormality on breast tissue biopsy. Examination of the breast tissue under a microscope can help to determine if cancer or another type of breast change is present. Most types of breast changes do not lead to cancer but some may increase the risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Women who have received radiation therapy to the chest (including the breasts) before 30 years of age. Radiation therapy to chest increases a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer throughout her life. The risk is especially higher in younger women. According to various studies the younger a woman at the time of therapy the higher is her risk of developing breast cancer later in life.


Women below 40 years do not need to be screened as:

  • breast cancer occurs less often in younger women.
  • mammography is more likely to miss detecting breast cancer in young women as the breast tissue is denser.
  • breast screening in women younger than 40 is not cost effective.


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