If you are under the age of 40, when it is suggested that women begin getting screening mammograms, you may believe you are too young to have breast cancer—this is not the case.
While breast cancer is uncommon in younger women, it is the most frequent malignancy among women aged 15 to 39. And some types of breast cancer are becoming more common in young women.
While breast cancer is more often identified in postmenopausal women, it may and does occur in young women as well. Breast cancer has been detected in women in their twenties.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 11% of all breast cancers occur in women under the age of 45.
This year, an estimated 26,393 women under the age of 45 will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Every year, over 1,000 women under 40 die from breast cancer.
While most breast cancers discovered during annual mammograms are in women over 50, women under 40 are generally too young to begin screening unless they have a mutation, a genetic reason, or physical symptoms, such as a mass or other breast changes.
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When Should Screening Begin?
Doctors suggest starting mammography screening no earlier than age 40 and no later than age 50 for women at average risk for breast cancer and continuing until at least age 74.
A mammogram should be performed at least every two years. A breast ultrasound is suggested for women whose screening mammography reveals thick breasts.
It is important to consult with a healthcare professional about when you should begin obtaining mammograms, depending on your individual health profile, and to schedule an appointment with your doctor if you observe any unexpected breast changes.
At any age, if a woman feels a breast lump that does not go away while conducting a breast self-exam, she should get it looked at.
When women observe an unexpected breast change, breast cancer is