When should you have your first mammogram? Everything to consider

Mayo Clinic recommends women start at age 40

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Have you ever asked yourself, "Should I have had my first mammogram already?"

Or perhaps: "The guideline has changed, hasn't it? When are doctors recommending people get their first mammograms?"

They're fair questions.

We poked around to see what they recommended at Mayo Clinic, the nonprofit academic medical center focused on the latest clinical practice, education and research.

At Mayo Clinic, doctors offer mammograms to women beginning at the age of 40 and continuing annually.

But this website stressed that it's a woman's personal decision when she wants to begin mammogram screening and how often to repeat it.

"Mayo Clinic recommends women and their doctors discuss the benefits, risks and limitations of mammograms and decide together what is best. Balancing the benefits of screening with the limitations and risks is a key part of deciding when to begin mammograms and how often to repeat them.

"Not all organizations agree on breast cancer screening guidelines, but most emphasize meeting with your doctor to review (some factors and) determine what's right for your particular situation."

It can be a harder decision than it seems like on the surface.

Consider that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force mammogram guidelines recommend women begin screening at age 50.

Meanwhile, the American Cancer Society recommends women begin screening at age 45.

But both groups acknowledge that beginning at 40 may make sense for some women after considering the benefits and limitations of the test.

So, what brought Mayo Clinic to its current recommended age?

"Mayo Clinic supports screening beginning at age 40 because screening mammograms can detect breast abnormalities early in women in their 40s," its website said. "Findings from randomized trials of women in their 40s and 50s have demonstrated that screening mammograms decrease breast cancer deaths by 15 to 29 percent."

Just keep in mind, mammogram screening isn't perfect. False-positives are possible, meaning, sometimes an abnormality will be detected, and then it turns out not to be cancer.

Mayo Clinic said women should meet with their doctors to discuss your circumstances. Your medical history and your individual breast cancer risk will come into play.

Ready to book that appointment?

On your list, mark the following:

Things to talk to your doctor about --

  • Your personal risk of breast cancer.
  • The benefits, risks and limitations of screening mammograms.
  • The role of breast self-exams for breast awareness in helping you become more familiar with your breasts, which may help you identify abnormalities or changes.