Breast Cancer Screening

At the age of 40 or 50 it is recommended that all women start receiving yearly breast cancer screening depending on their risk for developing breast cancer. However for women with the BRCA genes a physician may recommend regular screenings starting at the age of 25 or 30.

What is a mammogram?

Breast cancer screening is done through the use of an x-ray of the breast tissue which is called a mammogram. When a woman displays no signs or symptoms of breast cancer physicians will request a screening mammogram. These mammograms help detect tumors that can't be felt or calcium deposits which can indicate the presence of breast cancer. The other type of mammograms is the diagnostic mammogram which physicians will order after a screening mammogram detected a lump or irregularity in the breast tissue.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of a screening mammogram?

Regular screening mammograms help reduce the number of deaths in women over the age of 50 and allow your physician to observe any year over year changes that could indicate breast cancer. However there are some limitations to the screening mammogram. When a false positive occurs it could lead to over-treatment and misdiagnosis which would put the patient through cancer treatment unnecessarily. If a false negative occurs it may prolong the time before a diagnosis is made in which case the advantage of early detection is lost. When a physician orders a screening mammogram they also have an understanding of your personal medical history and your family history which will help them determine your risk and whether or not to proceed with a diagnostic mammogram.