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When Do I Need a Mammogram?

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A mammogram is a screening often used to detect early signs of breast cancer. According to the American College of Radiology, one in eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer during her lifetime. Learn about the role that mammograms play in the early detection of breast cancer,who should get a mammogram, and when.

Who needs a mammogram and how often?

The American Cancer Society and the American College of Radiology recommend yearly screening mammograms beginning at age 40.

“Age 40 is when the average risk woman should begin screening mammography to maximally reduce her risk of breast cancer,” says McFarland Clinic Radiologist Douglas Lake, MD. “One in six breast cancers are found in women ages 40 to 49.”

Women of any age who have symptoms such as lumps, nipple discharge, or redness or who have a family history of breast cancer should also talk with their primary care provider about getting a mammogram.

Why do most women start getting screening mammograms at age 40?

According to the American College of Radiology:

  • One in six breast cancers occurs in women in their 40s.
  • Mammography has helped reduce breast cancer mortality in the U.S. by nearly 40 percent since 1990.
  • Three out of four women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease and are not considered high risk.

Some women may be advised to start getting screening mammograms earlier than age 40, for example, if they have a family history of breast cancer. Talk with your primary care provider to learn more.

What are the two types of mammograms?

A mammogram is an x-ray of breast tissue that is used to detect early signs of breast cancer, often before there are any symptoms. A mammogram is performed by a radiology technician.

There are two types of mammograms:

  1. Screening mammograms
  2. Diagnostic mammograms

What is the difference between a screening mammogram and a diagnostic mammogram?

A screening mammogram, usually done yearly, is for patients that show no signs or symptoms of breast cancer. A diagnostic mammogram is for patients with symptoms such as lumps, nipple discharge, or redness. A diagnostic mammogram is often accompanied by an ultrasound.

What should a patient expect during a mammogram? Does a mammogram hurt?

A radiology technologist will perform your mammogram. To prepare, you will undress from the waist up and will be given a gown to wear. Breast compression will last about 10-15 seconds for each image. You may feel some discomfort while your breasts are compressed during the imaging. The mammogram appointment will take about 20 minutes.

When will I get my mammogram results?

At McFarland Clinic, the results from your mammogram are read by a board-certified radiologist. The radiologist will send the results to your healthcare provider to share with you. Typically you can expect to have your mammogram results within 48 hours.

What does it mean when a mammogram gets recalled?

A recalled mammogram can mean a number of things. If you are called back, it does not necessarily mean that you have cancer. Most of the time, additional testing is needed to get a clearer picture. 

How do I schedule a mammogram? Is a referral needed?

No referral is needed for a screening mammogram if you are 40 or older. If you have signs or symptoms such as redness or lumps or a family history of breast cancer, please talk to your primary care provider, who can determine if you need to be referred for a diagnostic or screening mammogram.

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