Hope you had a great weekend! This weekend was the Avon Breast Cancer Walk in NYC, so in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I wanted to do a quick post on mammograms, when we ladies should get them & what’s involved. I’ll be turning 30 next summer (eek!) and was curious to know whether breast cancer screenings are something that I should be expecting anytime soon. So what’s the real deal on breast exams?
1. Be sure to get annual breast cancer screenings after the age of 40.
Okay so first things first: if you’re over the age of 40, you should definitely be getting annual mammograms. There are two kinds of mammograms: screening mammograms and diagnostic mammograms. A screening mammogram is two basic X-rays of the each breast, while a diagnostic mammogram involves multiple X-rays of each breast at several angles. Screening mammograms are your first line of defense when checking for lumps or abnormalities in your breasts. Diagnostic mammograms are generally used once a lump is found to determine if it’s cancerous. Most private insurance providers cover mammograms (without any additional deductibles) for women over 40, as does Medicare. So go get screened!
2. If you’re under 40, know your family history when it comes to breast cancer.
If you’re under the age of 40, you’re not quite in the clear yet when it comes to breast cancer screenings. What’s your family history? Has anyone in your family been diagnosed with or passed away due to breast cancer? Be sure to ask questions and find out. Still unsure? Breast cancer is tied to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are genetic mutations that can be checked for by your doctor. Talk to your doctor about whether it makes sense for you to do genetic testing for these genes and what the implications may be for when you should start breast cancer screening.
3. Be your breasts’ best friend!
It might be a bit awkward for some, but I think that every woman, regardless of age, should get familiar with her breasts. They are a part of you and deserve care! Checking your breasts regularly at a young age also ensures that you’ll be better able to notice if something is different about your breasts right away. So do a breast self-exam (BSE) regularly (say once every season) just to check for any changes. Don’t know how to do a BSE? Here’s a helpful link on how to do a BSE from WebMD.
For more information about mammograms, I highly recommend checking out the National Cancer Institute’s website.
Did you participate in the Avon Walk, Susan G. Komen race or any other breast cancer activities this month? Have you or someone close to you been affected by breast cancer?
Stay healthy & aware,