Mammograms: When to Start and When to Stop

In Breast Cancer, Recent Posts by Barbara Jacoby

Over the last several years, I keep seeing updated information regarding mammograms and when they should be started. Depending upon who is writing the article and to what research they are referring, the data seems to fluctuate so quickly that it seems virtually impossible to make a decision on what information and recommendations to follow. So I decided to do a little research for myself.

However, you would not be the first person to request a third or fourth opinion to pinpoint an on-going problem that you just “know” is not being properly addressed.Barbara Jacoby

In my search for some definitive answers, I went to a site to find out about the published research regarding how others receive such conflicting information when trying to make responsible decisions for themselves. From what I learned, I am certainly not alone in trying to decipher how these ever-evolving numbers keep changing. But, the saddest part is what it is doing to the women who truly want to have some definitive information so that they can make responsible choices when it comes to their healthcare.

On the flip side is the information regarding when one can reasonably consider no longer getting mammograms. This was a matter that I never even considered until I came across a recent article that addressed this subject. It seems that the data to support a decision about stopping this screening is woefully lacking and no agreement has been reached currently about making this decision. And with the likelihood that with modern medicine we will be living longer, it seems to become even more difficult to make a responsible decision based upon current standards and constant improvements in care and treatments.

As always, it seems that in any aspect of our medical health, it comes right back to our primary medical professional. This is the one person who has the complete record of your personal medical history that also includes as much information as is available of your family members’ histories as well. Based upon the years of association and record keeping that your doctor has accumulated, this has been and always will be your very best chance at receiving the most accurate diagnoses and treatment options for those conditions that develop in your life.

However, this does not mean that you should expect your doctor to know everything in the world of medicine today as things can change completely in a particular arena by tomorrow. Therefore, you should be sure that you have a primary care physician in whom you have complete confidence and who respects you as a patient and takes time to address your concerns. If you do not have this situation established for yourself, it is time to find a new primary doctor.  If you are already interacting with such a caring professional who is vested in your care, then when you find information such as confusing recommendations regarding when you should start receiving or ceasing mammograms, you should address your concerns with your doctor and understand that your doctor will always make recommendations for you on a personal basis and never on a set of statistics that may have been gathered to serve as general guidelines.
And if you are not comfortable with the information that you receive, you should always request a second opinion. In the vast majority of cases, your primary care physician will be spot on in the information/explanation/course of action recommended. However, you would not be the first person to request a third or fourth opinion to pinpoint an on-going problem that you just “know” is not being properly addressed. Your persistence just might be the one thing that is needed more than anything else to make the difference.