Why you should never skip a mammogram

Women's Health

by Sean Raj, MD

Apr 30, 2021

We’ve known for a long time that mammograms are an important wellness tool for all women to keep up with as they age. But now, we have even more proof. In a recent study, women who completed consecutive regularly scheduled appointments for mammograms had a far lower risk of mortality from breast cancer post-diagnosis.

So, what does this new research mean exactly and why does it matter? Let’s find out. 

A single mammogram could save your life

We already know that skipping routine screening mammograms can be of great danger to women, and this new research confirms previous research. It further demonstrates that yearly and consistent screening mammography decreases the risk of dying from breast cancer.

On the flip side, regular mammograms are one of the best things you can do as a woman to stay well as you age. Beginning at age 40, women should have a screening mammogram every year. Furthermore, women at high risk for developing breast cancer (due to family history or other risk factors) may benefit from early mammography or supplemental screening. Talk to your doctor about what screening schedule is best for you.

What to expect during a mammogram

  • Before: There’s nothing you need to do to prepare before a mammogram. However, women with cyclical tender breasts may benefit from scheduling their mammograms between days 7 and 14 of their menstrual cycle, which is when breasts are often less tender.
  • During: A screening mammogram consists of four views—two of each breast—and the entire process takes about 10-15 minutes to perform. Getting a mammogram is not painful, but may be a little uncomfortable.
  • After: You will usually learn of your results within 24 hours. 90% of screening mammograms are considered normal, but approximately 10% of patients will return for additional imaging. The good news is, the vast majority of these will ultimately be benign, or non-cancerous.

Healthy habits for healthy breasts

While mammograms are critical in maintaining good breast health, there are many lifestyle changes that can also help keep you well. These are six simple life rules that can help you live a longer, happier and healthier life:

  1. Exercise regularly.
  2. Maintain a healthy body weight.
  3. Eat a healthy diet.
  4. Don’t smoke.
  5. Limit alcohol consumption.
  6. Get all recommended screening examinations, including a yearly screening mammogram beginning at age 40.

If you are due or past due for a mammogram, schedule your mammogram online today at a breast imaging center near you.

About the Author

Sean Raj, MD, is a diagnostic radiologist on the medical staff at Baylor University Medical Center and serves as medical director of the Darlene G. Cass Breast Imaging Centers and the High Risk Breast Program. Get to know Dr. Raj.

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