Who Needs a Mammogram?
If you are a woman age 40 or older and in good health, we recommend having an annual screening mammogram, because this regimen has the potential to save the most lives. Having an annual mammogram makes it possible for us to detect changes in the breast or possible cancers at the earliest stage. Although not all cancers are detected on a mammogram, evidence shows that lives are saved and treatment is less costly and unpleasant when cancers are detected early. Some patients may prefer less frequent mammography due to their own values and tolerances. Patients should discuss risks, benefits, personal and family history, and personal values and tolerances with their physician or health care provider to establish with a personalized screening schedule that is optimal for them.
What if I am at high-risk for breast cancer?
If you are at high-risk for breast cancer - defined as a greater than 20 percent lifetime risk - the American Cancer Society recommends having a breast MRI in addition to a mammogram every year.
If you are at moderately increased risk - defined as a 15 percent to 20 percent lifetime risk - you should talk with your doctor about the pros and cons of adding breast MRI screening to your annual mammogram. Yearly breast MRI screenings are not recommended for women with a lifetime risk below 15 percent.
Your risk for breast cancer can be determined by your doctor based on your family history, past radiation therapy, breast density and other factors. Women who have a breast cancer gene mutation (known as a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation) are at greatly increased risk. Gene mutations can be detected through genetic testing.
The Familial Cancer Program at the UVM Medical Center and the University of Vermont provides a wide range of services. Services include risk assessment, information and counseling about genetic testing for patients with a family history of cancer and/or increased risk of breast cancer. To consult with the Familial Cancer Program at the UVM Medical Center and genetic coordinator, please call 802-847-1328. If you have an increased risk and would like more information please visit the High-Risk Breast Program at the UVM Medical Center.
Early Detection is Your Best Protection
One of the keys to increasing breast cancer survival rate is early detection. Of women whose breast cancer is detected in its earliest stages, 96% have a higher survival rate. It is so important for every woman to follow these screening guidelines.
The radiologists at the UVM Medical Center breast imaging division recommend annual screening mammography for all women beginning at age 40 and continuing as long as a woman remains in good health. Risks and benefits should be discussed by a woman with her physician or health care provider.
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