May 06, 2014 8:00 AM

Author: Office of Public Affairs

Ladies, listen up!

First, the bad news: Breast cancer is the second most common form of cancer in women in the U.S. (only skin cancer is more prevalent). On the flip side, thanks to improved screenings and increased awareness, deaths from the disease have steadily decreased during the last 20 years.

For years, the mammogram has been the gold standard of breast cancer screenings. And now, digital mammograms are making it even easier for doctors to detect cancer.

Why Go Digital?

Film mammograms are still a dependable option, but some research suggests that they may miss 10 to 20% of breast cancers.

Dense breast tissue makes it more difficult to detect cancer, but with digital mammograms, radiologists can tweak the images so that small abnormalities stand out better against the dense tissue. This is especially important for women younger than 50, premenopausal women, and women who naturally have dense breasts.

Digital mammograms also use about 25% less radiation than traditional film mammograms, and their electronic storage allows for enhanced interpretation and easier-to-obtain second opinions.

When to Screen

Proactivity can pay off. Here are the general screening guidelines from the American Cancer Society:

  • 20 years old: Women should perform regular breast self-exams and gain an understanding of how their breasts normally look and feel.
  • 20s and 30s: Every three years, women should have a clinical breast exam performed by their health care provider.
  • 40 years old: Yearly mammograms should begin and continue annually, as long as the woman is in good health.

Depending on family history, some women may need earlier or more frequent screenings. Talk to your doctor about what’s best for you.

Knowledge is Key

Take the Mammogram Quiz.

Assess your risk for breast cancer.

women's health a better you mammograms mammogram breast health

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