Mammograms: How Early Is Too Early?
There is much debate over the right time for a mammogram, Jeffrey Obron, MD, explains “Women and their doctors should discuss the benefits, risks and limitations of mammograms and decide together when to begin having mammograms.” The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend screenings begin at age 40, but some women with family history or have other medical conditions may choose to begin screening in your 20s or 30s rather than waiting until you are 40.
What’s the Right Age for a First Mammogram?
The American Cancer Society suggests the mammography screening at the following ages:
Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms if they wish to do so. The risks of screening as well as the potential benefits should be considered.
Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
Women age 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or have the choice to continue yearly screening.
For women at higher than average risk
If you are at high risk for breast cancer, you may consider the following guidelines put out by the American Cancer Society include a MRI and a mammogram every year. This includes women who:
- Have a lifetime risk of breast cancer of about 20% to 25% or greater, according to risk assessment tools that are based mainly on family history (such as the Claus model – see below)
- Have a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation
- Have a first-degree relative (parent, brother, sister, or child) with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, and have not had genetic testing themselves
- Had radiation therapy to the chest when they were between the ages of 10 and 30 years
- Have Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Cowden syndrome, or Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome, or have first-degree relatives with one of these syndromes.
You should always consult your doctor to learn what is best for you.