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Question: When should I have my first mammogram and what are the recommendations of CSM and the American Cancer Society for early detection of breast cancer? Why should I have my mammogram at Columbia St. Mary’s?

Written by Dr. Thomas Berns and Dr. Patrick McWey, Breast Imaging Radiologists, Columbia St. Mary's

The answers to these questions require thoughtful, careful explanation; therefore, CSM breast health experts have provided this information:

Annual Mammograms
There have been conflicting recommendations about when women should have their first mammogram. Understandably, this has caused confusion.

The American Cancer Society, the American College of Surgeons and the American College of Radiology, as well as the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists all recommend that screening mammography begin at age 40.  The State of Wisconsin Department of Health and Human Services also endorses screening mammography for women in their 40s.

Current scientific evidence supporting annual screening mammography is stronger than ever.  In particular, recent evidence has confirmed that mammograms offer substantial benefit for women in their 40s.  Findings from a study in Sweden of more than one million women in their 40s who received screening mammography showed a decrease in breast cancer deaths by 29 percent in that group.

The American Cancer Society recommends:

  • Beginning in their 20s, women should perform breast self exams. Click here for the American Cancer Society's guide on how to perform a self exam.
  • Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam as part of a regular health exam, preferably every 3 years.
  • Starting at age 40, women should have annual screening mammography and an annual breast exam, preferably prior to the mammogram.

    The Van Dyke Haebler Center offers a welcoming atmosphere.

    The Van Dyke Haebler Center offers high-tech mammography equipment.

    CSM's Van Dyke Haebler Center offers
    high-tech mammography equipment,
    in a comfortable, warm environment..

All women are encouraged to discuss their healthcare concerns with their healthcare provider.  However, it is important to remember that most women who develop breast cancer have no family history or other risk factors for the disease.  If only high risk women are screened with mammography, the majority of breast cancers would be missed.  Clinical breast examinations (physical examinations to detect lumps) detect about three breast cancers for every 10,000 women examined.  A physical examination is not a substitute for screening mammography which detects breast cancer about ten times more often than a physical examination.

The risk of breast cancer does not abruptly increase starting at age 50, but increases steadily with increasing age. About one in six of all breast cancers occur in women in their 40s.  The chance of screening mammography detecting breast cancer in a woman in her 40s in any given year averages slightly over two in 1,000.

Screening mammography performed yearly as opposed to every other year has the potential to save twice as many lives in the 40 to 50 year age group (36 percent as opposed to 18 percent).  Breast cancer in younger women tends to be more aggressive.

Annual screening may also result in earlier detection of breast cancer when it can be treated with less aggressive surgical and medical therapy.

Annual breast cancer screening with mammography beginning at age 40 saves lives.

It is important to report any lump or change in the breast to your physician since not all breast cancer is detected with mammography and a lump may prompt additional evaluation with ultrasound.

Mammograms at Columbia St. Mary’s
Columbia St. Mary’s offers state-of-the-art digital mammography and comprehensive breast diagnostic and interventional services. Dedicated technologists and radiologists are supported by dedicated breast health care nursing professionals to provide the highest level of compassionate care.

In addition, Columbia St. Mary’s offers breast cancer risk assessments for women scheduled for mammography.  A patient can request to have her lifetime risk of breast cancer calculated and she will be notified if her risk is above or below the threshold endorsed by the American Cancer Society. This information is then sent to her doctor.

Women at increased risk for breast cancer can receive additional information and services at the Columbia St. Mary’s High Risk Clinic which includes physician and nurse specialists and genetic counseling.

For more information or if you would like to schedule a mammogram at the Van Dyke Haebler Center at Columbia St. Mary's Milwaukee campus, Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital Ozaukee or Riverwoods Outpatient Center, please call (414) 326-1800. 


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