Getting Your First Mammogram: Is 50 The New 40?

For many years, women were encouraged to get their first mammogram at the age of 40. However, in more recent years, many doctors have begun recommending that women wait until after their 50th birthday to begin taking advantage of this screening test. Understandably, this change in recommendation has many women questioning when is truly the best time to schedule their first mammogram. Thankfully, it is possible to answer this question on a case by case basis by taking the time to look at the reasons behind this new recommendation as well as your own personal risk factors.

The True Difference Between 40 And 50

Most women will experience breast tissue changes between the ages of 40 and 50. At age 40, the breast will still be made up of dense tissue that is difficult to differentiate from cancer cells on a mammogram.

As women approach age 50, this dense tissue will be replaced with fatty tissue which allows for a much clearer image. By allowing radiologists to clearly distinguish between dense breast tissue and cancer cells, these clearer images will ultimately result in fewer false positives and unnecessary biopsies. Consequently, it is now believed that mammography is a far more useful diagnostic tool when used in women after the age of 50.

However, as with all medical recommendations, there are exceptions to this rule. Taking the time to understand these exceptions can help you to make a much better decision regarding when you should get your first mammogram.

Knowing When 50 Is Too Late

While it may be beneficial for the average woman to wait until 50 before getting her first mammogram, this will not be the case for women who are considered at high risk of developing breast cancer. High-risk patients are typically defined as those who:

  • had a parent or sibling with breast cancer
  • have discovered a suspicious lump in their breast
  • have abnormal discharge from one breast

Women who fall into this high-risk category will typically need to begin getting annual screenings much earlier than the average woman. However, if no abnormalities are found, it may be beneficial to wait several years before repeating the procedure. This is because each time you have a mammogram, you will be exposed to a small amount of radiation. The younger you are when you start your annual mammograms, the greater your risk will be of developing radiation-induced breast cancer. Therefore, it is never beneficial to perform this screening test unnecessarily.

Get in touch with a medical professional at a place like Women's Care Inc to determine when the best time is for you to get a mammogram.