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When Should I Start Getting Mammograms?

Some confusion exists about when you need to start getting mammograms. Many women aren’t sure whether the recommendations say to start at age 40 or 50. Because this helpful screening exam can spot early signs of breast cancer, most experts now believe that earlier detection is better.

Unlike other doctors, who may require you to go to a separate facility to have your mammogram, Dr. Alan Patterson offers this service in the familiar environment of his office in Coral Springs, Florida. We’ve pulled together a primer on mammograms to explain when and how often you need this breast cancer screening.

A mammogram or breast ultrasound can catch breast cancer while it’s still in early, more-treatable stages before it has a chance to become more serious or even life-threatening. While monthly self-exams of your breasts are still important, mammograms may detect cancer three years before a lump appears.

What a mammogram is like

During a mammogram, you stand with your breast resting on a plastic plate, then the technician moves another plastic plate on top to hold your breast in place while a radiologic image is taken. The plates squeeze together, so you feel the pressure, but it only lasts for a few seconds. Several of these images will be taken from different angles.

Sometimes Dr. Patterson may recommend a breast ultrasound in addition to a mammogram. The ultrasound helps to give him a clearer picture of what’s going on in your breast tissue, particularly if you’re younger than age 30 or have breast implants.

The age recommendations

The American Cancer Society recommends that you get your first mammogram somewhere between the ages of 40-45. 

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) essentially agrees, suggesting that women with average risk should be offered the option of a mammogram starting at age 40. ACOG also suggests that all women should be screened every 1-2 years by age 50. 

The bottom line is that each woman makes the decision with her doctor, based on her current health and symptoms as well as her family history. When you come in to see Dr. Patterson for your exam, you can discuss when would be the best time for you to begin getting mammograms.

Exceptions: who needs earlier mammograms

If you’re at high risk for breast cancer, you may need earlier and more frequent mammograms. Risk factors for developing breast cancer include having a first-degree relative (mother, sister, or daughter) with breast cancer and having multiple family members on your mother’s or father’s side with breast cancer. 

If you’ve ever been told that you’re positive for having the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, this can also significantly increase your risk.

Other risk factors for breast cancer include the following:

Other risk factors include starting periods before age 12 or starting menopause after age 55, as these expose your body to hormones for a longer time.

Why it’s important to repeat mammograms yearly

The first mammogram gives Dr. Patterson a baseline of what your breast tissue looks like. He can then watch for changes from one year to the next by comparing the results to your previous mammogram. 

If you have dense breasts, it’s also more important to have more frequent mammograms. This is because dense breast tissue can make it more challenging to get accurate images.

You can get your mammogram or breast ultrasound at our new center in Boca Raton, Boca Raton Mammography, which opens on August 3, 2020. To schedule your appointment, call our office at 954-613-0070 or request an appointment online.

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COVID-19 guidelines:

1) We’re still seeing obstetrics patients in our office to ensure that our pregnant patients are getting the care they need. If you’re pregnant, please call us to book your appointment today. We are also seeing patients in our office that are having gynecological problems or gynecological emergencies.

2) Here's what we're doing to ensure the safety of our patients who come into the office for their appointments:

Patients may not be accompanied by other people at their appointments. 

3) We are offering telemedicine appointments for the following conditions: yeast infections, UTIs, birth control consults, vaginitis (vaginal infections), hormone replacement therapy consults, perimenopause, menopause, amenorrhea, and abnormal periods. Please call us to determine if your need for services qualifies for a telemedicine appointment.

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