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Your Mammography Screening Schedule: When to Start and How Often to Screen

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More than 90 percent of women with breast cancer detected in the early stages will survive.

Yet, some still put off or skip their mammograms simply because the screening advice varies.

According to Dr. Megan Johnson, a primary care physician at Mon Health Wedgewood Primary Care, getting a mammogram is the best way patients can stay proactive when it comes to detecting breast cancer.

“Unfortunately, breast cancer can’t necessarily be prevented,” said Dr. Johnson. “But early detection and prompt treatment mean everything when it comes to fighting and surviving this disease.”

So what are the guidelines for early detection? Dr. Johnson says they may differ based on a woman’s risk factors.

“Recommendations for cancer screenings vary based on age and level of risk,” said Dr. Johnson. “What we would recommend to a person with an average risk may be different from what we would recommend to someone whose mother and sister were diagnosed with breast cancer.”

Patients at a higher risk for developing breast cancer include:

  • Those with a close family history of breast cancer
  • Those who have prior breast cancer diagnoses
  • Those with any high risk lesions found by biopsy or examination
  • Those with a history of radiation therapy
  • Those with evidence of a specific genetic chance (BRCA1/BRCA2 mutation)

For women with average risk (having none of the risk factors listed above), experts suggest the following screening schedule:

  • Women 20+ do not need mammograms until age 40. However, they should be familiar with how their breasts normally look and feel, and report any changes (such as lumps and tenderness not associated with the menstrual cycle or pregnancy) to their doctors.
  • Women between 40+  should schedule a yearly mammogram every year.


What if I’m classified as high-risk?

For women with a high risk of developing breast cancer (having one or more risk factors listed above), the American Cancer Society recommends getting both an MRI and mammogram each year beginning at age 30.

If you have questions or concerns about risk factors, breast changes or screening recommendations, consult your doctor.

Learn more about the Mon Health Women’s Imaging Center.

Schedule an appointment with Dr. Johnson.