By Lisa Fields
Twenty-five years ago, President Bill Clinton proclaimed October 19th to be National Mammography Day to encourage women to get screened for breast cancer regularly and to publicize the importance of early breast cancer detection, which can be life-saving. Since then, itâ€™s been observed on the third Friday of October.
Today, getting regular mammograms is just as important as it was in 1993. The American Cancer Society recommends that women may begin getting annual mammograms between the ages of 40 and 44, and by age 45, all women should receive annual mammograms until age 55. Then, they may decide to continue getting annual mammograms or go every other year.
Screening mammograms (which check for disease when you have no symptoms) shouldnâ€™t be given to women under age 40 , because younger women have denser breast tissue, which makes the mammograms hard to interpret. Instead, your doctor should give you a breast exam annually, and you may perform breast self-exams at home.
If youâ€™re breastfeeding, your doctor may recommend that you delay getting a screening mammogram, even if youâ€™re in the right age bracket, because breastfeeding makes breast tissue denser, which makes it harder for doctors to interpret mammogram results. Many breastfeeding women delay getting mammograms until a few months after theyâ€™ve weaned their babies, when their breast tissue returns to its normal state. If youâ€™re considering getting a screening mammogram while breastfeeding, talk to your doctor, factoring in details such as your personal or family history of breast cancer and the length of time since your last mammogram.
If youâ€™re breastfeeding and you feel a lump or notice other possible signs of breast cancer, donâ€™t delay getting a mammogram while youâ€™re nursing. Thereâ€™s no need to stop breastfeeding to get a diagnostic mammogram (which can determine whether suspicious symptoms are cancerous). Mammography wonâ€™t interfere with your milk production, and you can even breastfeed immediately after the exam.