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It’s generally recommended that every woman starts their breast cancer screening mammograms at age 40 and continues to get them yearly until at least age 75. But what are the reasons to start your mammograms earlier? Women at higher risk for breast cancer are encouraged to start getting mammograms closer to age 30.
Let’s look at risk factors for breast cancer so you can determine if you should start your mammograms sooner than 40, as well as how breast cancer impacts younger women.
Who Should Get Mammograms Before Age 40?
You should start your mammograms earlier if you’re considered high-risk for breast cancer. You might be high-risk if you:
- Are African-American: The American College of Radiology recommends that African-American women start screening at age 30.
- Are Ashkenazi Jewish: Ashkenazi Jewish women of Eastern European descent women have a much higher risk of breast cancer. The risk of having a gene that increases the risk of breast cancer is one in 400 in the general population. In the Ashkenazi Jewish population, it increases to one in 40.
- Have a family history of breast cancer: You are at increased risk if you have a sibling, parent or child with breast cancer. The more first-degree relatives with breast cancer you have, the higher your risk.
- Have dense breasts: Dense breasts increase your breast cancer risk by 25%.
- Have had radiation exposure: If your chest has been exposed to radiation between the ages of 10 and 30, you may need to get screened early.
- Have the breast cancer gene: If you or a first-degree relative has the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, your doctor will likely recommend you get mammogram screenings earlier than 40. You can find out if you have the gene through genetic testing.
How Does Breast Cancer Affect Younger Women?
While only 5% of breast cancer cases are in women younger than 40, it tends to be more aggressive and less likely to respond to treatment in younger women. It can also lead to problems with sexuality, fertility and pregnancy after receiving treatment for breast cancer.
It’s important to pay attention to the warning signs no matter how old you are. One of the challenges for younger women is that they tend to ignore symptoms, thinking they’re too young to have breast cancer. Delaying the diagnosis can lead to delayed treatment and decreased chances of survival. If you have lumps or unusual discharge, get your breasts checked as soon as possible.
Schedule Your Mammogram Today
The earlier breast cancer is detected, the quicker you can get treatment and have a better chance of recovery. You can now schedule some mammograms online here, or you can request an appointment. No matter your situation or diagnosis, know that you’ll be supported in body, mind and spirit every step of the way.