Even if your doctor hasn't recommended you to get one, you can always make sure to request to make an appointment yourself.
Breast cancer needs a lot of attention and for good reason. According to the American Cancer Society, the chances of a woman dying from breast cancer is about 1 in 39 (about 2.6%). In the case of cancer, sometimes even the simplest questions go unasked. But when it comes to healthcare, knowledge is power. The right information and awareness can make a vast difference in your own life as well as your loved one's.
There are ways to identify breast cancer even before symptoms persist.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, breast cancer screening won't prevent breast cancer, it can help find breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat. In addition to self-check for lumps, it is recommended to get a mammogram as advised by the doctor, because not all breast cancers form a noticeable lump, adds Good Housekeeping.
“Early detection is critical,” says Dr. Sarah Zeb, per John Hopkins Medicine. “If you wait to have a mammogram until you have symptoms of breast cancer, such as a lump or discharge, at that point the cancer may be more advanced .”
While breast cancer may also affect women younger than 40, women over 40 should get mammograms regularly, recommends Jonathan Bank, M.D., New York-based board-certified plastic surgeon and member of AiRS Foundation’s Medical Advisory Board, per Good Housekeeping.
However, if you are someone whose immediate family has been diagnosed with breast cancer in the past, it is advised to get a mammogram annually before you're 40. An MRI might help, too, per Healthline.
“The recommendation is that if you are a woman from age 40 on, you should have a mammogram every year, even if your doctor forgets to mention it,” says Dr. Zeb.
Women undergoing the procedure will be made to stand in front of a special X-ray machine. Then, a technologist will place one of your breasts on a plastic plate, after which another plate will firmly press your breast from above. The plates will flatten and hold the breast in place while the X-ray is taken.
The same steps are repeated from both sides to get a complete picture. Then, the entire procedure will be repeated with your other breast, too. While it doesn't really hurt, this procedure is bound to cause some pressure on your breasts. However, some women, who have tender breasts, might complain of pain.
The technician will check to ensure they've gotten all the imaging they need, but if they spot an issue, they might ask you to cooperate for another x-ray. The technician will not be able to help you with the results, as only a doctor with special training, called a radiologist, can read the mammogram.
Annual mammograms are considered the best option to detect cancer early. It can provide a greater chance for a cure and reduce the risk of death from breast cancer.
“Having a normal mammogram is great news, but it does not guarantee that future mammograms will be normal,” says Dr. Zeb. "Having a mammogram every year increases the chance of detecting the cancer when it is small and when it is most easily treated which also improves survival."
Moreover, the doctors at the Mayo Clinic say it is quite impossible to tell which breast cancers will spread beyond the breast and which cancers will remain confined to the breast.
It is important to know that while a majority of people who get breast cancer are women, men can also get breast cancer. However, since the numbers and risks are comparatively insignificant, there is no need for them to get regular mammograms.
Your health is your priority. Even if your doctor hasn't recommended you to get a mammogram, you can always request to make an appointment yourself. As always, prevention is better than cure!
Cover Image Source (Representative): Getty Images | andresrDisclaimer : This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.