Making breast health a priority is important at any age. And starting at age 40, getting an annual screening mammogram is an essential part of taking care of your health for many reasons.
Mammograms Help You Establish Your Breast Health Routine Early On
Breast health experts recommend that women with no breast concerns begin annual mammograms at age 40. This is because screening can help detect even subtle changes in breast tissue year over year, and early detection of breast cancer can save lives. Breast cancer risk goes up as you get older, so starting a breast health routine early and annually will help you establish the good habit of screening both now and for years to come.
In addition to getting yearly breast cancer screenings, your routine can include doing breast self-exams and staying alert to any changes in your breasts monthly. This includes lumps, swelling, pain in the breast or nipple, nipple discharge and red, dry or thickened skin in your breast or nipple. If you detect a breast change that is concerning, consult your doctor, as you may need a referral for a diagnostic mammogram.
Early Detection is the Best Defense
Annual screening mammograms can help physicians detect breast cancer in its earliest stages before symptoms are present. When cancer is found early, it is often smaller and may not have had a chance to spread, making it easier to treat. This means you may be able to avoid more invasive treatments and conserve breast tissue. Early and effective treatment also means better outcomes for patients.
3D mammograms can reveal cancer up to two years before a lump can be felt in the breast. Mammograms can show:
- Calcifications, tiny deposits of calcium in the breast tissue that are sometimes caused by cancer
- Solid masses, which may or may not be cancerous
- Asymmetries, which show as areas of white on a mammogram and signal abnormal breast tissue. A mammogram also gives information on your breast density. This is important because women with more dense breast tissue may be at a higher risk for developing breast cancer.
Give Yourself Peace of Mind
Another benefit of getting mammograms annually is simply to reduce anxiety. When your mammogram is normal, meaning it doesn’t show any concerning changes in your breast tissue or early signs of cancer, you will have peace of mind knowing that your breasts are healthy. In the event that your mammogram shows an abnormality that requires additional imaging and/or testing, such as a mass, you will be able to get a diagnosis and expert care as early as possible, giving you the best chance for successful treatment.
Help Your Doctor Establish a Baseline
Annual screening mammograms help your doctor track your individual breast health over time. By establishing a baseline early on, your doctor can spot any changes in your breast tissue that occur naturally year after year. Understanding what is “normal” for your breasts and what may require further follow-up care will help both you and your doctor make the best decisions regarding your breast health as you get older.
Prioritize Your Own Health
Women often put others before themselves, including when it comes to matters of health. But delaying preventive care can have negative effects on your health and the benefits of mammograms are overwhelming. Making your annual screening mammogram a priority helps you put your health and wellness at the top of the to-do list — and keep yourself healthy not only for you, but also for your family and loved ones.
We offer 17 convenient breast centers throughout the Greater Charlotte area and evening and weekend appointments at select locations. Our board-certified, subspecialized radiologists provide expert care for over 130,000 women every year.