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What women 40 and over need to know about new mammogram guidelines

Healthier Together: Mammogram Recommendations for Women 40 and Older
Posted at 1:48 PM, Oct 27, 2023

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and a good time to remind women about the importance of regular screenings, including getting a mammogram.

In recent months, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force joined leading medical experts recommending those begin at age 40 instead of 50, affecting tens of thousands of women here in our state.

“This affects a ton of women,” said Dr. Nicole Saint Clair, Executive Medical Director for Regence BlueCrossBlueShield when asked about the new mammogram screening recommendations.”

“When cancer is found in that earliest stage it has a cure rate of almost 99 percent,” said Saint Clair.

And she said contrary to what you may believe, a mammogram is pretty easy.

“It’s just sort of a unique specialized x-ray, so I think we shouldn’t be intimated by getting this testing.

Adding there are a number of misconceptions when it comes to breast cancer – like whether deodorants, underwire bras, or too much sugar is possibly increasing your risk.

“Some of these types of external things have not been proven. And so really the vast majority of women who develop breast cancer had no risk factors prior to developing it. However there are some factors that can increase your risk, that is if you have a first degree relative like your mother or your sister who also have cancer,” said Saint Clair.

This brings us to another myth that if you don’t have a family history of breast cancer you’re not at risk – but that’s not exactly the case.

“That’s why it’s really important for us to get out of that type of thinking and recognize that we’re all at risk,” said Saint Clair.

She suggests all women perform regular self-examinations.

“If you do feel any kind of a lump that you’re not sure about or seems to be new, absolutely talk about that with your provider and get it checked out.”

Have you heard the term “dense breasts”? Dr. Saint Clair said that does come with heightened risk.

“It’s important to know that you have this and also to make sure that you’re following up with any recommended additional screenings,” she said.

Eating a well-balanced diet, having a healthy lifestyle, getting plenty of sleep and reducing your stress levels are all ways you can help lower your breast cancer risk, along with remembering to make that mammogram appointment.