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An annual mammogram can save your life

The best way to beat breast cancer is to find it early. Nearly all women - 98 percent - survive breast cancer if it is found early, before it spreads. Mammography is the key to early detection. That's why Legacy Cancer Institute recommends annual mammograms starting at age 40.

Not convinced? Keep reading:

  • Regular mammograms reduce breast cancer deaths by roughly one third in women age 40 and older, according to the largest and longest running breast cancer screening studies in history
  • Mammograms cut the risk of dying from breast cancer almost in half, according to a recent study
  • Nearly one in five Legacy breast cancer patients are under 50
  • Breast cancer is less common in younger women, but it tends to be faster-growing. A new study has found that women in their 40s face a higher risk of death when cancers aren't found early.
  • Read more about the latest - and fatally flawed - study that's misleading women.

 

"The best way to beat breast cancer is to find it early,
and a mammogram is the gold standard for that."

-- Nathalie Johnson, MD, breast cancer surgeon
and Legacy Cancer Institute medical director 

The controversy

In November 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force suggested that women begin routine mammogram screenings at age 50, and have them every two years to minimize radiation exposure and avoid the anxiety that some women feel. Since then, there have been several published studies that question the value of screening mammograms

Legacy Cancer Institute, along with every major American medical organization with expertise in breast cancer, recommends annual mammograms starting at age 40. This is based on the best available science, and on our years of experience screening thousands of women for breast cancer. These organizations include:

  • American Cancer Society
  • American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • American College of Radiology
  • National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC)
  • Society of Breast Imaging

Read more about the latest - and fatally flawed - study that's misleading women.

All Legacy facilities use digital mammography, the most advanced technology that delivers the most precise images with the least amount of radiation. In addition, Legacy's four Breast Health Centers offer all patients 3-D mammography, which finds more cancers, at earlier stages. 3-D mammography also reduces the number of false alarms.

Learn more about 3-D mammography.

Legacy's recommendations

  • Women age 40 and older should have a mammogram every year and should continue to do so for as long as they are in good health. While mammograms can miss some cancers, they are still a very good way to find breast cancer.
  • Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam (CBE) as part of a regular exam by a health expert, preferably every 3 years. After age 40, women should have a breast exam by a health expert every year. It might be a good idea to have the CBE shortly before the mammogram. You can use the exam to learn what your own breasts look and feel like.
  • Breast self-exam (BSE) is an option for women starting in their 20s. Women should be told about the benefits and limitations of BSE. Women should report any changes in how their breasts look or feel to a doctor or nurse right away.
    • If you decide to do BSE, you should have your doctor or nurse check your method to make sure you are doing it right. If you do BSE on a regular basis, you get to know how your breasts normally look and feel. Then you can more easily notice changes. But it's OK not to do BSE or not to do it on a fixed schedule.
    • The most important thing is to see a doctor right away if you notice any of these changes: a lump or swelling, skin irritation or dimpling, nipple pain or the nipple turning inward, redness or scaliness of the nipple or breast skin, or a discharge other than breast milk. But remember that most of the time these breast changes are not cancer.
  • Women with a higher risk of breast cancer should talk with a doctor about the best approach for them. This might mean starting mammograms when they are younger, having extra screening tests, or having more frequent exams. There are charts called risk assessment tools that a doctor can use to figure out whether or not you are at high risk.