Breast cancer deaths are down, partly because the disease is found earlier—when it’s easier to treat—in women who have mammograms. But experts are concerned this success story may be leading women to the dangerous conclusion that breast X-rays aren’t important. As fewer women get mammograms, more deaths could result.
Women still have about a one in eight lifetime risk of developing breast cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. Plus, as women age, their odds of developing the disease rise dramatically.
Experts have different recommendations for mammography. Currently, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening every two years for women ages 50 to 74. The American Cancer Society recommends a mammogram yearly for all women ages 45 to 54, and every other year for women ages 55 and older.
Women should talk with their doctors about their personal risk factors before making a decision about when to start getting mammograms or how often they should get them.
Here are some tips for a successful mammogram:
- Get any special instructions from the screening facility before you go.
- Make the appointment for a week after your period, when breasts are less tender.
- Tell screening staff if you have breast implants, you are pregnant or might be, or if you’re breast-feeding.
- Dress in a shirt with shorts, pants, or a skirt, so you only need to remove upper clothing.
- Don’t wear deodorant, perfume, lotion, or powder under your arms or on your breasts the day of your mammogram. They can make shadows on the X-ray, making it harder to read.
For more information on breast health services and screenings available through Western Connecticut Health Network, click here.