An annual screening mammogram is recommended for women starting at age 40. But sometimes myths and misconceptions can get in the way. Let's clear the air by taking a look at five five myths and/or misconceptions about mammograms.
Datasource: Mammogram and breast cancer myths
Myth 1: I'm not at risk because I don't have a family history of breast cancer.
Only 5% - 10% percent of breast cancers are inherited, so, every woman should be screened.
It's important to understand that some risk factors are things you're born with or cannot change, for example:
- Being born female
- Getting older
- Your race and ethnicity
- Being taller
- Having dense breast tissue
- Having certain non-cancer breast conditions
- Menstrual period starting at a young age
- Going through menopause after age 55
Myth 2: I don't need a mammogram every year.
Annual screenings spot changes faster. According to the American Cancer Society:
- Women 40 to 44: Start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (x-rays of the breast).
- Women 45 to 54: Get mammograms every year.
- Women 55+: Mammograms every two years or continue yearly screening.
- Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.
Myth 3: A breast self-exam is good enough.
Mammograms find lumps two to three years before a woman or her physician can feel them.
Research studies have found there is little evidence that self-breast exams find breast cancer early. Breast self-exams are important for breast health because they can help you detect changes that may be signs of infection, however, they should not replace exams and screening tests.
Myth 4: I can't have a mammogram because I have breast implants.
Women with implants can have a mammogram. Extra pictures will be taken because it's harder to see some of the breast tissue.
Myth 5: It doesn't matter what type of mammogram I have, as long as I get one.
Quality of imaging matters especially if a woman has dense breast tissue. 3D mammograms or tomosynthesis, for example, allow radiologists to see multiple layers of the breast more clearly and a woman with dense breast tissue may need a breast ultrasound for additional imaging.
It's important to make time for breast health.