Mammograms still best cancer prevention

Monday, October 1, 2012 - 8:44pm

Over the past few years, there's been a lot of debate over mammograms. Who should get one? When? Are they really necessary?

Organizations such as the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say mammograms save lives, and should be a part of every woman's health care regime. Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, experts are reminding women who need mammograms to get them.

According to the CDC, regular mammograms are still the best tests physicians use to find early cases of breast cancer; in some situations up to three years before a lump can be felt.

According to the guidelines, women should have mammograms every two years between the ages of 50 and 74. After turning 74, most women will not need mammograms anymore unless her doctor says she is at high risk. If breast cancer runs in your family your physician may suggest a mammogram before the age of 50.

There are three types of mammogram: screen-film mammography, digital mammography, also called full-field digital mammography or FFDM, and a new 3-D imaging technique. All three types of image are taken in the same way; what differs is whether the images take the form of photographic films or of digital files recorded directly onto a computer.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the 3-D X-ray mammography device last year. Like the others, it is safe, uses a low dose of radiation (though a little higher than the others), but it can give a clearer, more detailed picture and is usually preferred for women with dense breasts, or those who have had abnormalities in the past.

Experts recommended that women ask their doctors about which type of mammography is the best for them.

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