One of the most common cancers among women in the United States is of the breast.

For women 40 and over, a mammogram is recommended on a yearly basis. However, what happens if you’re not 40 and you have a family history of breast cancer?

That depends.


In general, medical professionals do not recommend mammograms for women under age 40. However, for women with genetic mutations, screening can begin at 25. For women with a direct family history of breast cancer (mother, sister), screening is often initiated 10 years earlier than the first affected relative in the family. For example, if your doctors diagnosed your mother with breast cancer at age 40, a primary care provider would likely recommend you schedule your first screening at age 30.

Health insurance often pays for one screening mammography between ages 35 and 40. After age 40, health insurance pays for one mammogram each year with or without clinical breast examination. Women without insurance or who are underinsured can apply for financial assistance through the Women’s Way program.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer increases with age. Additional ways of reducing the risk of breast cancer include regular exercise, keeping a healthy weight and limiting alcohol intake. Breastfeeding also decreases the risk for breast cancer.

If a family history of cancers such as breast, ovarian, prostate and colorectal are present, most insurance companies help cover the costs of Myriad genetic testing. This looks for gene mutations of BRCA1, BRCA2 and 26 other genes that have been associated with hereditary cancers.

Ask a physician if a hereditary cancer test that looks for multiple genetic mutations associated with increased cancer risks for eight different cancers, is available. If a family history of certain cancers exists, insurance may cover the test.

Early development of breast cancer may not display symptoms; however, as it progresses, cancer can form lumps or thickening around the breast or underarm. It can also change breast size or shape, dimple the skin or pull the nipple back into the breast. A physician should examine any ulcerations, nipple discharge, swelling, dimpling and/or redness, as this is not normal.

Women should visit their physician on an annual basis for a physical evaluation.

“There’s no excuse for women not to receive a basic screening, as well as their mammogram. This is why JRMC is holding No Excuses events on Oct. 26, Nov. 5 and 8,” said JRMC Radiology Manager Jason Schaffer. “No Excuses provides women the opportunity to receive a cervical cancer screening, as well as their mammogram. If women have any financial barriers, proceeds from Running of the Pink helps cover those needs.”

Schedule your 3D mammogram direct: (701) 952-5348.


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