Over the past few years, there has been a lot of debate about what age and how often a woman should have a mammogram. For several years, the American Cancer Society strongly recommended yearly mammograms for women starting at age 40. However, as of October 2015, they changed their recommendation based on the direction of medical experts in the field.
A large part of what changed the age and timeframe recommendations is related to the growing concern that yearly mammograms starting at age 40 may have the potential to do more harm than good. A mammogram exposes women to radiation (just like any other type of x-ray), and having nearly 40 years of radiation exposure even in small doses can lead to the development of breast cancer.
Exceptions to the New Recommendations
If a lump is found in the breast, regardless of age or when your last mammogram was done, another mammogram would be necessary. In addition, women who present a high risk for breast cancer due to certain health conditions, cancer in another location, a family history of breast cancer, or the BRCA genetic mutation are still recommended to start mammograms at 40 until age 74 and to have them yearly. Women should never have a mammogram during pregnancy.
Much like most types of cancer, if caught early enough, the survival rate increases. Therefore, it is important to have a mammogram as recommended.