Although they are not perfect, mammograms are the best method to find breast changes that cannot be felt.
Mammograms are known to pick up 80-90% of cancers. This leaves 10-20% of cancers that will not be seen. The detection rate drops dramatically in women with dense breasts to only 40-50% of cancers picked up on a mammogram. This is not a good detection rate by any means.
Mammograms have limits that include:
Mammograms may not help a woman with a fast growing cancer that has already spread to other parts of her body before being found.
False negatives can happen, although they don’t happen often. Younger women are more likely to have a false negative mammogram than are older women.
The dense breasts of younger women make breast cancers harder to find in mammograms.
False positives can happen and are more common in younger women.
As a younger woman, between 40 and 50 years old, what can you do to get the most accurate screening?
First, find out your breast density.
If you have dense breasts, you need to be especially vigilant to make sure that if you do have breast cancer, you increase the odds of it being found early.
Ask your doctor to send you for a screening breast ultrasound when you have your annual mammogram.
Be sure to go to a facility that has digital mammograms.