In general, the doctors of The Breast Center advise women over 40 to get a mammogram each year. For some women, it’s a birthday gift they give themselves. Others like to schedule their mammograms during October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Many women get it done alongside their annual well woman check-up. But some women need more frequent mammograms.
Why would you need more frequent mammograms?
There are quite a few reasons that your doctor might recommend more frequent mammograms. For example, if you have a change in your screening mammogram, you may be “called back” for additional mammograms to better determine if the finding is of concern.
Occasionally the radiologist will want to continue to do mammograms every six months to be sure the change is not significant. A six-month follow up can also be an alternative to a biopsy for women who have an abnormality that is probably benign. A diagnostic mammogram can be a less intrusive procedure than a biopsy.
If you’ve had a lumpectomy to remove cancer, your doctor might want to check your breast more frequently for a few years.
Are twice-yearly mammograms safe?
The short answer to this question is yes.
The longer answer needs to begin with the information that a mammogram is a low-dose X-ray. A typical mammogram with two views of each breast exposes a woman to about 0.4 millisieverts. A millisievert is the standard measure of radiation.
Naturally occurring background radiation in our daily lives can add up to 3.5 millisieverts each year. Counting X-rays as well, according to the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP), the average annual radiation dose per person in the U.S. is 6.2 millisieverts.
Two mammograms can comfortably fit into that total. However, twice yearly mammograms may not involve the same amount of radiation as annual screening mammograms. Your six-month diagnostic mammogram may require images of only one breast, or may use ultrasound in conjunction with mammography.
The bottom line: if your doctor prescribes a follow up before the year is up, you should feel confident about following that prescription.
Personalized Screening Plans
If your family has a history of breast cancer, you may be at a higher risk to have it, too. You can schedule a risk assessment appointment with one of the specially trained nurses at The Breast Center. During a risk assessmenty you will learn more about your risk and develop a customized screening plan.
For more information, call the Breast Center at (479) 442-6266.