According to the Centers for Disease Control, a mammogram is still the best test to find early cases of breast cancer. In some cases, they can spot a problem as much as three years before a lump can be felt.
The guidelines for when to have a mammogram have been moving around a bit the last few years. So let's review the latest recommendations.
The CDC recommends having a mammogram every two years after the age of 50, unless breast cancer runs in your family. Some experts, including the American Cancer Society, call for yearly mammogram screening beginning at age 40 for women at average risk of breast cancer. You need to discuss the risks/benefits with your doctor.
After 74, there is no need, unless a woman is at high risk.
There are three types of mammograms: film, digital and 3-D.
Digital mammograms are instant and they're easier to read than film images.
The 3-D X-ray mammography device, approved by the FDA last year, gives a more in-depth picture and is usually used for women with dense breasts, or those who have had some abnormalities in the past.
Talk to you doctor about which is the best way to go. But when it's time, don't put it off.
For more information
CDC Recommendations on Mammograms
American Cancer Society: Breast Cancer
National Cancer Institute: Mammograms
Your Body and Breast Cancer