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Do I Need a Mammogram Before I Turn 45? YES.

  • The entire reason we screen for breast cancer is to find it EARLY, when most treatable and survivable.
  • Breast cancer is the number one cause of death in women aged 35 to 54 years.
  • Mammography has been proven to reduce deaths due to breast cancer in women screened beginning at age 40.
  • 25% of all years of life lost to breast cancer occur in women diagnosed before the age of 45.
  • Women at “high risk” for breast cancer due to known or suspected disease-causing mutation (such as BRCA1 or BRCA2) should begin screening at least by age 30, to include MRI.

What About False Alarms (known as “False Positives”)?

  • About 10% of women having a screening mammogram will be called back (recalled) for extra testing or views. THIS IS NORMAL. Among women called back, 95% do not have cancer. If a needle biopsy is necessary, even that is a simple test not much different from a dental filling.
  • The newer technique of 3D-mammograms (also known as tomosynthesis), is more able to show cancer AND results in fewer callbacks for extra testing.

What About Screening in Dense Breasts?

  • Younger women are more likely to have dense breast tissue, that can hide cancer on mammography.
  • In women who have breasts categorized as “dense” (heterogeneously dense or extremely dense), adding screening ultrasound after a mammogram can help find more breast cancers. Because ultrasound detects more areas which need follow-up, there is more to check. Ultrasound does also increase the chance of needing a needle biopsy to determine if something detected is cancerous or not.

Is it Covered?

  • Insurance is required in nearly all states to cover the full cost of screening mammography. Diagnostic mammography is performed to evaluate abnormalities on screening or when a woman has signs or symptoms of breast cancer. A deductible/co-pay will typically apply for diagnostic mammography.
  • In a few states, insurance coverage is required (though not necessarily without a deductible/co-pay) for additional screening, such as ultrasound. In women at high risk for breast cancer, most insurers will cover screening MRI (regardless of density) though a deductible/co-pay will typically apply and a pre-authorization may be needed.

For more information on breast cancer screening, dense breasts and risk factors, please visit www.DenseBreast-info.org. For information about screening guidelines and dense breasts, An Interview with Radiological Expert, Dr. Wendie Berg