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When To Start Getting Routine Breast Cancer Screenings

Once you reach a certain age, your primary care provider recommends you visit a screening center for annual breast cancer screenings to ensure you have no signs of breast cancer. Breast cancer is diagnosed most commonly in women aged 50 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The recommendation is routine screenings from the age of 40 and older so any sign of breast cancer is caught and treated at its earliest stage. 

The main reasons it is not common practice for doctors to recommend breast cancer screenings for women under 40 are:

  • With just 4% of the women diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. being under 40, according to Susan G. Komen, risks of developing breast cancer are low for women in this age group.
  • Diagnosing breast cancer is more difficult in younger women because their breast tissue is typically denser than the breast tissue in women over 40, according to Cleveland Clinic.

What Does A Routine Breast Cancer Screening Consist Of?

Routine breast screenings initially consist of mammograms, and if any further testing is needed to diagnose abnormalities, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound, or biopsy may be recommended. Recommendations for women at a higher risk of breast cancer include more in-depth forms of medical imaging in their regular screenings to be as safe as possible.

Here at Little Silver Mammography and HerSpace, our New Jersey breast imagers are proud to provide 3D mammograms for women who need routine breast screenings. 3D mammograms are notably able to detect 27% more cancers than traditional 2D mammography and 40% more invasive cancers like lobular breast cancer.

By taking several X-rays of the breasts, a 3D mammogram produces a 3D photo of the breasts. Radiologists can then see all the minute details, usually hidden by the surrounding tissues. 3D mammograms, or breast tomosynthesis, allow early, tiny signs of breast cancer to be detected so women can start the treatments they need as soon as possible.

An MRI may be recommended with your mammogram If you are at high risk for breast cancer. Using magnets and radio waves to capture images of the breasts, MRIs provide detailed imagery of the inside of the breasts and can catch tiny signs of cancer not seen on mammography. The reasons for recommending an MRI may include:

  • You were recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and your doctor wants to assess the extent of the disease in more detail
  • You have breast implants that could have leaked or ruptured

What Makes You At High Risk For Breast Cancer?

You may be considered at a high risk for breast cancer If you relate to any of the following factors, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • You are above the age of 40
  • You have a genetic breast cancer mutation (BRCA1 or BRCA2)
  • You have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer
  • The use of radiation around your breast area before the age of 30
  • You have had breast cancer or non-cancerous breast diseases in the past
  • Your menstrual periods started before the age of 12, or your menopause stage started after the age of 55 (this exposes you to hormones longer)
  • You have dense breasts

When To Get Routine Breast Cancer Screenings

According to the American Cancer Society’s guidelines for the early detection of breast cancer, the recommendations for routine breast cancer screenings are:

  • Women aged 40 to 44 have the choice to start annual mammograms
  • Women aged 45 to 54 should get mammograms yearly
  • Women 55 and older should get mammograms every two years but can choose to continue yearly screening
  • Women should continue screenings as long as they are in good health

The American Cancer Society also stresses the importance of all women having accurate knowledge of the benefits, limitations, and potential harms of breast cancer screening. They suggest that all women should know the usual look and feel of their breasts so they can share any changes in their breasts with their doctor as soon as possible.

In general, your options for breast cancer screening are to start getting your screening mammograms at 40 or sometime in your 40s or to start at age 50, as this is when risk becomes more evident. We recommend starting at age 40 when screenings are nationally endorsed, as this reassures you and your doctor and allows you to get treatment at a very early stage.

Does Insurance Cover My Routine Breast Screenings?

If you have no symptoms and you are having a screening mammogram:

  • Insurance carriers are required, under the Affordable Care Act, to cover the whole cost of a traditional screening mammogram for women with no symptoms, according to According to South Jersey Radiology, New Jersey law requires insurance coverage for annual screening 3D mammograms, but the amount of coverage varies depending on your health insurance provider.

If your doctor recommends additional screening after your mammogram:

  • Coverage for further screening tests such as ultrasounds or MRIs varies from state to state and insurance companies. It’s best to contact your insurance carrier about their coverage for additional screenings based on your plan.

If you are at high risk for breast cancer:

  • Most insurance carriers cover the cost of screening MRIs, but they may request authorization, and a deductible/co-pay may apply. 

If you are having a diagnostic mammogram for further inspection of a sign or symptom of breast cancer:

  • Depending on your insurance plan and location, a deductible/co-pay may apply for the amount of insurance coverage.

What Are The Benefits Of A Yearly Mammogram?

The main benefits of getting your screening mammogram each year are:

  • Mammograms can find masses too small for you or your doctor to feel.
  • Mammograms can detect certain breast cancers early when they are easier to treat.
  • Having regular mammograms can lower your risk of dying from breast cancer.

If you are in or around Little Silver, New Jersey, and want to start getting your annual breast cancer screenings, contact us at Little Silver Mammography and HerSpace. Our team of dedicated and caring NJ imaging specialists helps many women get the reassurance and answers they need quickly and in a comfortable environment.