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The Importance Of Mammograms
Mammograms are the singular, most effective way to detect breast cancer in women. Mammograms are x-rays that allow doctors to take a closer look at a patient’s breast tissue to detect any abnormalities. In addition to a mammogram, doctors will also perform a physical exam to check for lumps in the armpits or chest. Doctors will educate women about how the breasts should look and feel when healthy. This way, women can inspect the body to detect any changes and alert the provider.
At what age should a woman get a mammogram?
Doctors recommend getting a mammogram at age 40. At this point, women should undergo yearly screenings. By age 55, experts believe a woman can get a screening every two years or continue the yearly screenings if preferred.
Women with a family history of breast cancer may want to consider getting screenings earlier. Doctors may even screen these women with MRIs. These MRI machines use breast coils to take pictures of the breast from every angle. Typically, breast MRIs are performed on women who already have cancer, but for high-risk patients, this is an effective tool for early detection.
Where should I go?
A patient interested in a mammogram should speak to a primary care provider or gynecologist. The providers will be able to speak in-depth about what a mammogram entails and the next steps. Usually, a mammogram is scheduled at a facility that already has the special imaging equipment providers need to perform tests.
How long does the process take?
Getting a mammogram doesn’t take long. Mammograms take about 20 minutes, but breast MRIs will take a bit longer. During the screening, doctors use the low-frequency x-ray machine to take pictures of the breast. The woman only has to remove the top and bra for the procedure.
Do I need to talk to a provider?
Women should speak to a healthcare provider about mammogram screenings. Most private insurances and Medicaid have provisions for yearly mammograms. Providers will be able to give referrals and make recommendations regarding when to start screenings.