Breast cancer screenings: How soon to start?
A large number of women diagnosed with breast cancer are 40-years-old or older, but that doesn’t mean the disease can’t strike earlier.Posted — Updated
Applegate didn’t wait until she was 40 to begin breast cancer screenings because she had a family history of breast cancer. Her mother is a two-time breast cancer survivor and has also had cervical cancer.
Experts recommend women have mammograms every year starting at age 40. Women younger than 40 who are at a higher risk for breast cancer should talk with a health care provider about when to start mammograms and how often to have them, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Some factors that place women at an increased risk for this type of cancer are:
- Family history
- Long-term use of hormone therapy to treat menopause
- Breast changes on biopsy – some abnormal cells can increase the risk of a woman developing breast cancer. Women who have had two or more biopsies on their breast for other benign conditions are also at an increased risk
- Certain genetic alterations
- Reproductive/menstrual history – Women who had their first child after age 30 or who have never had a child can be an increased risk. Women who started their periods before age 12 or went through menopause after turning 55 are also at an increased risk.
- Radiation therapy patients – Women who have had the treatment to the chest before age 30.
- Breast density – Older women whose mammograms show more dense tissue are at an increased risk.
- Taking the drug Diethylstillbestrol (DES) – Pregnant women who took the drug between 1940 and 1971 are at an increased risk. It is no longer given to pregnant women.
- Being overweight or obese
- Being physically inactive
- Alcohol usage – Some studies suggest the risk of breast cancer increases with the amount of alcohol a woman drinks.
If more aggressive screening discovers the presence of breast cancer, patients may be candidates for a prophylactic mastectomy.