Mammogram Guidelines You Should Know
Mammograms are, to date, the best diagnostic test we have to catch breast cancer and other breast conditions. If you’re like most women, you probably have a few questions about the testing guidelines and what to expect when mammogram time comes around. Here, we walk through some of the most important details of this screening.
“I don’t need a mammogram; I have no family history!”
We need to address this misconception first. If you are a woman, you have a risk of breast cancer. According to statistics, 1 in 8 women with no family history is at risk of breast cancer. Due to the sheer number of breast cancer diagnoses, statistics suggest that more of the annual cases of breast cancer affect women without a family history than women who do have this risk factor.
Guidelines for mammogram screening have changed from time to time so, it is no wonder why women struggle knowing when and how often they should get this screening. The general recommendations endorsed by the American College of Breast Surgeons and the American College of Radiology is that women with an AVERAGE risk of breast cancer schedule mammograms every year beginning at age 40. There is no specific age to stop this screening. This is determined by the patient’s overall health.
Mammogram scheduling may also have to consider insurance coverage. Most insurance companies require subscribers to schedule mammograms at least 366 days apart. Each woman should check with her insurance company and then mark her calendar accordingly. Also, because it may be necessary to return to the center or a doctor’s office for further testing, women are encouraged to schedule mammograms when they will be in town for at least two weeks following their screening.
2D vs 3D Mammogram
A conventional 2D mammogram compresses the breast in two positions, producing 2 images of each. In these images, cancer can look similar to normal glandular breast tissue. The positioning and imaging of 2D mammography could miss cancer hidden within dense breast glands. A 3-dimensional mammogram uses the same two positions for imaging as a 2D mammogram. However, 4 images of each breast are produced, not 2. Two of the images produced are 2D and two are 3D. This technique is better at distinguishing small cancerous growths from normal breast tissue, reducing the likelihood of being called back for further screenings.