There’s no ‘aging out’ of mammograms

You’re a healthy, active, 50-something woman with no family history of breast cancer. You have always been good about getting your annual screening mammograms since you turned 40, and you have never had any issues — not even a single call-back for additional tests.

So perhaps you’re thinking, “I’m good now, right? I don’t need to keep having regular mammograms. If I haven’t gotten breast cancer by now, chances are I’m not going to get it.”

Well, not exactly.

The facts

According to the American Cancer Society:

  • A woman's risk of breast cancer increases with age. In fact, the aging process is one of the biggest risk factors for breast cancer. Why? People are living longer these days, and the longer we live, the more opportunity there is for genetic damage (mutations) to occur in the body. As we age, our bodies become less capable of repairing the damage, and as a result, cancer can occur.
  • Most breast cancers occur in women age 50 or older. Rates of breast cancer begin to increase after age 40 and are highest in women over 70.
  • The median age of diagnosis of breast cancer for women in the U.S. is 61.
  • Most women diagnosed with breast cancer have no history of it in their families.
  • Yes, mammograms are x-rays. However, the level of radiation exposure is very low, and the benefits of mammography far outweigh the risks.
  • Medicare, Medicaid and almost all insurance companies cover the cost of having a mammogram. Ask your physician about where you can get a mammogram.

“If you’re a senior enjoying your golden years, continue your annual screening mammograms,” advises Sheila Manion, MD, Kettering Breast Evaluation Centers medical director and a breast cancer survivor. “At Kettering Breast Evaluation Centers, we are happy to make adjustments that are comfortable and right for you.”

What are the benefits of continuing regular mammograms?

Regardless of whether you are age 40 or 60, mammograms remain the best line of defense in the early detection of breast cancer. “A mammogram can find a lump before you can even feel it,” says Dr. Manion. “Detecting a lump early, while it’s small and before any symptoms appear, usually results in more options for treatment with fewer side effects.”

Women over the age of 50 often reap the most benefit from mammography, as their breasts are less dense, making them more effectively imaged during a mammogram. Also, mammograms are effective at detecting invasive breast cancers.

Take the time to continue caring for you

Getting a mammogram is so easy and takes so little time, usually about 15 minutes. “Early detection is the best protection,” Dr. Manion says. “Ladies, you are special and should take great care of your health — for you and your loved ones.”

Kettering Health Network is a faith-based, not-for-profit healthcare system. The network has eight hospitals: Grandview, Kettering, Sycamore, Southview, Greene Memorial, Fort Hamilton, Kettering Behavioral Health and Soin.

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