October is the month when you might start thinking about getting a mammogram, and there are plenty of places to get one in Topeka and Lawrence. But the “experts” no longer agree on how often you should get one, so should you go annually or every two years?
You may have also heard there’s an age at which you no longer need to get a mammogram at all. Is this true? And if so, what’s the cutoff age? The experts don’t seem to agree on that, either. Here are their guidelines:
- American Cancer Society: Mammograms should be done annually, beginning at age 45. Once you turn 55, you can switch to every other year. You should continue to get mammograms as long as you’re in good health and expected to live for at least 10 more years.
- American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology: You and your doctor should decide together when you should start mammograms and whether they should be done annually or every other year. They should continue until you’re at least 75. After age 75, you and your doctor should again make a joint decision as to whether or not you should continue.
- U.S. Preventive Services Task Force: Mammograms should be done every other year beginning at age 50 and stop at age 75.
It’s not a wonder why women might find this confusing. Just keep in mind that the ultimate decision about how often you should get a mammogram and if/when you should stop is yours. But here are some things to consider:
- Talk to your doctor. He or she is a good position to advise you based on your currrent health, health history, and family history.
- Consider the reasons for the differing expert opinions:
- Mammography isn’t perfect. There’s a potential for false positives, which can cause you undue stress and maybe even put you through some additional screening tests. This is more common in women in their 40s and 50s because their breast tissue tends to be more dense.
- Mammograms expose you to radiation. However, it’s such a small amount there’s a very minimal risk that it will cause you any harm.
Although the experts can’t agree on a cutoff age for mammography, they all agree that early detection of breast cancer saves lives. So in addition to getting a mammogram (or not), make sure you know what your breasts normally look and feel like and report any changes to your doctor.