October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the most important screening test for breast cancer is the mammogram.
Dr. Christina Speirs, a radiation oncologist with the Cancer Center of Hawaii, explains when a woman should start getting screened and explains what happens during a mammogram.
Speirs says the guidelines for mammogram have recently softened. Annual mammograms used to be recommended for women ages 40 and older.
Now, in 2016, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends biennial screenings for women ages 50 and older.
Speirs says women between the ages of 40-50 can still opt for annual screenings, but they should be aware of increased radiation exposure, and the potential for over-diagnosis and over-treatment.
You should consider regular mammogram screenings at a younger age if you:
- Are a carrier of BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene,
- Have a first-degree family member with the BRCA mutation,
- Received prior chest radiation, and/or
- Have family or genetic syndromes that increase your risk of breast tumors.
You can also use this online calculator to determine your risk for developing breast cancer.