Screening makes it possible to detect cancer early. It increases the chances of recovery and reduces the burden of treatment. The age at which you start having mammograms depends on your risk factors for breast cancer. If there is no particular risk, we recommend that you have a mammogram every 2 years starting at age 50.
Of course, breast cancer screening is not harmless and has certain disadvantages, including anxiety, “false alarms” following an abnormal examination when there is no cancer found, and even over-diagnosis. However, these disadvantages are largely counter-balanced by the benefits of screening: detected cancers are diagnosed at an earlier stage and benefit from less severe treatment.
Some women have a much higher than average chance of getting breast cancer. These women are referred to as “high risk”.
These are women:
- Who have a personal history of cancer of the breast, uterus and/or endometrium (body of the uterus) or certain breast conditions (atypical hyperplasia or benign proliferative disease)
- Who have been exposed to chest radiation before the age of 30, for example for the treatment of Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Who have a family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer among relatives
If your risk level for breast cancer is considered “high”, specific monitoring will be offered to you according to your situation and your age. Talk to your doctor: he or she will determine your risk level and suggest the most appropriate monitoring method for your situation.