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How to Know When to Get a Mammogram

when to get a mammogramAnnual mammograms used to be routine, but now some studies say you’re supposed to go every two years. Harvard-educated and board-certified gynecologist Sara Gottfried, M.D. shares her recommendations for how often you should really go. From The Hormone Cure: Reclaim Balance, Sleep, Sex Drive, and Vitality Naturally with the Gottfried Protocol.

After being told for years that women should have annual mammograms starting at age forty, you may have read about the dramatic turnaround in recommendations for mammogram screenings that occurred in 2009. The respected epidemiology group U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) now recommends that after age fifty, women should have a mammogram every two years. This is a congressionally mandated panel of independent experts who systematically review our best evidence in the area of primary care and prevention. I trust these people. Turns out that having more mammograms over the years may lead to more unnecessary biopsies (because of false positives) and perhaps increased damage to breast tissue from radiation.

Exceptions to the two-year rule are women with an increased risk of developing breast cancer, including women who have a strong family history of breast cancer, bear the genes BRCA 1 or 2, or take antidepressants.

Another exception is women with dense breasts, in which case you may want to have your mammograms more frequently and the first mammogram done earlier. Make sure your mammographer is checking for “percent of fibroglandular volume,” an objective measure of how much white is on your mammogram (density on an x-ray) as opposed to black space (tissue that is not dense, such as fluid). This has been shown to predict breast cancer risk better than other measures of density or risk factors alone.

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