When should you get a mammogram to screen for breast cancer?

Travis County

AUSTIN (KXAN) — “The most important thing you can do to avoid dying from breast cancer is getting mammograms.” 

It’s that simple, according to Dr. Julie Sprunt a breast surgeon at St. David’s Medical Center and Texas Breast Specialist in Austin.

But there are some conflicting guidelines and recommendations when it comes how often women should get a mammogram to screen for breast cancer.

The American College of Physicians updated its recommendation this month to say women of average breast cancer risk should get a mammogram every other year starting at the age of 50 instead of 40. That recommendation does not apply to women with a higher risk.

Dr. Sprunt says the conflicting recommendations may confuse some women and says the right guideline is a personalized one. Women should get a mammogram at least by the age of 50 but earlier if they are considered at high risk for breast cancer or have a history of breast cancer in the family, she said. 

“Most of us say that you should get mammograms at least 10 years before the youngest family member was diagnosed,” she said. “So if you have a family member who was diagnosed at the age of 42 you should consider mammograms as early as 32.” 

The American College of Physicians is also clarifying it’s recommendation to add that women aged 40 to 49 years old should talk to their doctor about the benefits and harms of getting a mammogram before the age of 50.

“The potential downside to getting a mammogram every year is that can lead to additional work-ups and sometimes biopsies and that can cause a significant amount of anxiety for patients,” Dr. Sprunt said.

The doctor cautions the best approach is a personalized one and suggests women talk to their doctor and get genetic screening to figure out one’s lifetime risk of developing breast cancer to determine how often and how soon a mammogram is needed.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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