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Breast Cancer: Mammograms and Age

Dear Dr. Dave & Dr. Dee,

I have gotten mammograms, although not on a regular basis. However, my daughter who is 36 does not plan to get one because she thinks that since my mammograms have all come out fine, that she is fine. Is there some truth to that?



Dear Wondering,

The second leading cause of cancer death for women is breast cancer. However, early detection of breast cancer can save one's life. A mammogram is an x-ray picture of the breast, which can detect cancers too small to be felt by self-exam or by physician examination.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that women age 40 and older have a screening mammogram every year, and continue for as long as they are in good health. Annual mammograms should begin earlier for women with high risk factors such as a close family member with breast cancer. In addition, women should perform monthly breast self-examinations.

ACS recommends the following for early detection of breast cancer (


1. Yearly mammograms are recommended starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health.

2. Clinical breast exam (CBE) about every 3 years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and over.

3. Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast change promptly to their health care provider. Breast self-exam (BSE) is an option for women starting in their 20s.

Some women because of their family history, a genetic tendency, or certain other factors should be screened with MRI in addition to mammograms. (The number of women who fall into this category is small: less than 2% of all the women in the US.) Talk with your doctor about your history and whether you should have additional tests at an earlier age.

For more information, go to