When do I need a Mammogram?

Many women have regular pap smears and checkups yet are unaware they may need a mammogram. According to the American Cancer Society, women age 40 and older should get an annual screening mammogram even if they appear to show no breast symptoms.

This is a general guideline. Your doctor may advise a different schedule depending on your personal or family health history. If you develop a lump or other breast symptoms, check with your physician immediately.

Most women who get breast cancer have no risk factors except age. As a woman gets older, her risk increases. Women who may have an increased risk:

  • Have a sister, mother or daughter who has had breast cancer.
  • Have had previous breast cancer.
  • Have never had children or have their first child after age 30.
  • Began menstruating at an early age or went through menopause late.

When is the best time for me to examine my breasts?

Breast self-exams should be performed once a month, 5-7 days after your menstrual period ends. This allows a woman to examine her breasts when they are least tender or swollen. If you have reached menopause, have had a hysterectomy or are pregnant, choose a day that is easy to remember and do a self-exam on that day montly thereafter. If you are taking birth control pills, perform the exam the first day of your new packet.

Why should I examine my breasts?

A woman knows best how her breasts normally look and feel and is therefore able to detect changes early. The majority of lumps that can be felt are found by women themselves.

This exam takes only a few minutes each month, and can help save your life by finding breast cancer early, when it is most curable.

What should I do if I find a lump or other change in my breast?

Call your personal physician for an evaluation and medical opinion. Remember: Most breast lumps are harmless, but all need medical evaluation. Have your self-exam technique checked by your physician at the time of your regular check-up. If your doctor does not examine your breasts during a routine physical, ask for this to be done. Also, ask your physician to point out areas that may require special attention during your monthly self-exam. Although breast cancer cannot be prevented, survival is better when it is detected early and properly treated. Let monthly breast self-exams become a habit.