October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but that doesn’t mean you should wait until then to come in for your regularly scheduled breast exam. Breast cancer is the second-most common type of cancer in women today, falling just behind skin cancer — it’s so important to check up on your breast health and catch any abnormalities early on.
The expert providers at New England Women’s Healthcare are proud to offer breast exams year-round. If you’re wondering who needs one, how often you need one, and why they’re important, we’re here to answer your questions.
Who needs breast exams?
Several different health organizations put out guidelines for breast cancer screenings. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), which provides the guidelines that are followed by most health insurance companies and health clinics, recommends that all women start breast cancer screenings at age 50.
The American Cancer Society recommends that all women begin screening at age 45, while several other organizations — including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, the National Cancer Institute, the American College of Radiology, and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network — have published guidelines that recommend starting screenings at age 40.
Women with a higher risk of breast cancer, such as someone who has an immediate family member with breast cancer, may need to get screened earlier in life.
It’s best to talk with your provider about whether you need a breast cancer exam. Your team at New England Women’s Healthcare is here to answer any questions you have and guide you through the process.
How often should you get breast exams?
Just like there is no set-in-stone recommendation for the age to start breast cancer screenings, there is some variability in the frequency recommendation as well. For example, the USPSTF recommends all women ages 50 to 74 get “biennial screening,” which means you should get a breast cancer exam every other year.
The American Cancer Society, on the other hand, recommends yearly screening for women ages 45 to 54, and biennial screening for women ages 55 and above. If you have a higher risk of breast cancer, you may benefit from yearly screenings even after age 55. Again, your best bet is to discuss the ideal frequency of mammograms with your doctor — every woman is different.
To learn more about breast cancer screenings and prevention, call New England Women’s Healthcare at 781-787-3003 with any questions. If you’re ready to schedule your next breast exam, call 781-243-5777 to schedule an appointment at our Woburn, Massachusetts, clinic or request your appointment online. You can also send a message to the team here on our website.