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Breast health

Breast health begins with breast awareness, or a sense of what’s normal for your breasts. To promote breast health, do regular breast self-examinations. With practice, you’ll discover how your breasts vary in sensitivity and texture at different times during your menstrual cycle and during the various stages of life.

For many women, breast health concerns include breast lumps, breast pain or nipple discharge for which you should consult your doctor.

It’s also important to understand common screening and diagnostic tests for breast health, such as clinical breast exams, mammograms and breast ultrasounds.

If you’re thinking about breast augmentation or breast reduction, understand the surgical process — including who’s a candidate for surgery, what to expect from the procedure and possible complications.

Question:

Mammogram guidelines: What are they?

Mammogram guidelines seem to differ about when to begin mammograms — at age 40 or at age 50. When should I start getting mammograms and how often should I have one?

Answer:

There are varying mammogram guidelines from different organizations about when to begin mammograms. Here’s a brief summary.

Differing mammogram guidelines

In 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) — a group of health experts that reviews published research and makes recommendations about preventive health care — issued revised mammogram guidelines. Those guidelines include the following:

Screening mammograms should be done every two years beginning at age 50 for women at average risk of breast cancer.

Screening mammograms before age 50 should not be done routinely and should be based on a woman’s values regarding the risks and benefits of mammography.

Doctors should not teach women to do breast self-exams.

There is insufficient evidence that mammogram screening is effective for women age 75 and older, so specific recommendations for this age group were not included.

These guidelines differ from those of the American Cancer Society (ACS). The ACS mammogram guidelines call for yearly mammogram screening beginning at age 40 for women at average risk of breast cancer.

Meantime, the ACS says the breast self-examination is optional in breast cancer screening.

Breast self examinations, once thought essential for early breast cancer detection, are now considered optional. While screening mammograms have been proved to save lives, there’s no evidence that breast exams can do this. What’s now stressed is breast awareness — being familiar with the normal consistency of your breasts and the underlying tissue, as well as inspecting your breasts for new changes that may signify potential breast problems.

According to the USPSTF, women who have screening mammograms die of Breast Cancer less frequently than do women who don’t get mammograms.

What ARYA STANA BONE & BREAST CARE recommends

At ARYA STANA BONE & BREAST CARE, the current practice is to continue to recommend an annual screening mammogram beginning at the age of 40, which aligns with the ACS recommendation.

A three-tiered approach is used:

  • Breast health awareness, which includes a woman becoming familiar with her breasts in order to identify breast abnormalities or changes, and to inform her doctor of any changes that may need further evaluation
  • Clinical breast examination performed by a health care provider and recommended annually beginning at age 40
  • Screening mammography beginning at age 40

Screening mammograms can detect breast abnormalities early in women in their 40s. Findings from a large study in Sweden of more than 1 million women in their 40s who received screening mammograms showed a decrease in breast cancer deaths by 29 percent. And it’s important to remember that most women who get Breast Cancer have no family history or other known risk factors for the disease.

Screening mammography is the best available tool to detect Breast Cancer early, which can lead to better options and possibly less aggressive treatments.

If you’re concerned about screening mammograms, talk to your doctor and learn what’s right for you based on your individual risks. It’s important that the two of you work together to develop a screening plan.

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