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Is It Time for a Mammogram?

Is It Time for a Mammogram?

This entry was posted in Ask An Expert and tagged , on by .

Many women ask about when to get a mammogram. Adults in the US are subject to frequently changing guidance regarding many health screening procedures – particularly those involving women. So, it’s no surprise that many women wonder if it’s time to get a mammogram as they approach their 40s. It’s not uncommon for women who have never had a mammogram to have additional questions surrounding the procedure, as well.

Most women in this age range lead busy and hectic lives, and for some, preventative health care is often far down on the to-do list. However, as women approach middle age, it becomes more important to speak to a doctor about scheduling a mammogram appointment in the future. For women over the age of 40, the time to schedule a mammogram may be right now, especially for those with a family history of breast cancer and those who are otherwise considered to have a high risk for developing breast cancer.

Learn more information about scheduling a mammogram from your friends at Arizona Gynecology Consultants.

Should I Get a Mammogram?

The decision to get a mammogram should be made during a consultation with a doctor. This decision should consider your personal medical history, family history of breast cancer, and other risk factors. The answer to this question is a personal one, and there are determining factors that can suggest the recommended window you should get a mammogram, such as age, genetic predisposition, self-examination, and your doctor’s physical examination. Consult with your doctor to determine the ideal timing for your mammogram screening.

For patients who are within the 40+ age range, have a family history of breast cancer, or have the breast cancer gene, now is a good time to have that conversation with your healthcare provider. In addition, if you are using hormones, if you’ve had breast surgeries, or if you’ve had a cancer diagnosis in the past, share this information with your doctor.

Why Mammograms Are So Important

Mammograms are important because they can detect early signs of breast cancer more effectively than self-check breast exams and doctor breast exams. In fact, mammograms can catch breast cancer long before a lump is apparent, when it’s much easier to treat. The purpose of a mammogram is to identify abnormalities in the breast and determine if additional testing such as another mammogram and/or a biopsy, is necessary to identify or rule out potential cancerous tissue. There are four changes in breasts that mammograms can identify—calcifications, masses, asymmetries, and distortions—all of which are potential indications of cancer.

Mammograms are crucial for finding small cancers early when prospective treatment outcomes are the best. Breast cancer can potentially be an aggressive disease and can advance significantly in a short time. Therefore, monthly self-exams are also important for identifying potential issues between mammograms. Women who are familiar with the way their breasts normally feel can detect symptoms and abnormalities more easily, but it is also critical to get mammograms, especially if you haven’t been conducting regular self-exams.

When combined to form a comprehensive breast care routine, self-check breast exams, annual doctor’s exams, and mammograms are all effective tests, even for those who do not have an increased risk of breast cancer. Tests establish the healthy norm and make it easier to tell when slight differences occur.

Should I Get a Mammogram FAQ

Women Over 40

Consider the following information to determine whether you should ask your doctor about scheduling a mammogram.

Q: At What Age Should You Start Getting Regular Mammograms?

A: As a general guideline, women over the age of 40 and those at higher risk of breast cancer can benefit from routine mammograms. Women under 40 with a family history of breast cancer or other risk factors may need to start getting mammograms earlier. In general, it is important for women 35 and up to talk to their doctor to determine the right screening plan for them.

Q: How Often Should a Woman Get a Mammogram?

A: The frequency of mammograms is also a matter of professional medical recommendation and can vary depending on an individual’s age, health history, and other risk factors.

Here are some general guidelines:

  • Most women aged 40 to 74 need only get a mammogram every two years.
  • Women at elevated risk due to strong family history, genetic predisposition, prior chest radiation, or other risk factors may need to start getting mammograms earlier, have them more frequently, or have additional screening tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

It is important to note that these are just general guidelines. Your doctor may have a different recommendation based on your unique medical situation.

Q: At What Age Do You No Longer Need a Mammogram?

A: Women aged 75 and older may be able to schedule less frequent mammograms or stop them altogether. However, again, women in this age group should discuss the continued need for mammograms with their doctor, as the benefits and risks may change with age. In general, depending on a patient’s medical history, women aged 75 and older may not need to continue their routine exams.

How Fast Can Breast Cancer Develop?

While the rate of cancer growth and development of cancer tissues is specific to the individual patient and depends on a multitude of factors, a study suggests that the average breast cancer doubles in size in about 1.5 years. However, some cancers in the study took under two months to double. This indicates that cancers are unique, so some cancers are much more aggressive and grow much faster. Thus, it is a possibility that cancer that developed after a mammogram screening could be aggressive enough to progress significantly between mammograms.

Interval Cancers

Interval cancers are breast cancers that are discovered in between mammograms. These are typically volatile cancers that may be at a higher stage or grade and larger in size when discovered than those cancers detected in screening. This is because they have developed rapidly within the 11 to 23 months between routine mammograms.

Breast Awareness

It should be noted that women who are “breast aware” are more likely to detect changes in the breast tissue or notice other symptoms when between mammogram screenings. If they can identify masses early enough, these women have better prognosis than those patients who are not breast aware and do not perform regular self-breast exams. This indicates the importance of monthly self-checks and familiarization with one’s own body, even if you are receiving routine mammograms.

Getting Your First Mammogram

If you’ve determined that you are in or near the correct age bracket to get a mammogram or are otherwise at risk of developing breast cancer, it’s time to have a conversation with your doctor. Together, you can determine the right time to start routine mammograms and establish a schedule for regular mammogram screening over time. Then, you’ll schedule an appointment for your first mammogram screening.

There is research-based evidence that indicates mammograms should be, whenever possible, scheduled during the first week of the patient’s menstrual cycle. While this is not always practical or possible, especially for women getting their first breast cancer screening, mammogram results may be more accurate when performed during the first half of the menstrual cycle. One reason for this is that this is when breast tissue is less dense since it is more difficult to detect breast cancer through dense breast tissue.

Preparing For a Mammogram

After you schedule your mammogram, it is important not to allow yourself to become nervous or upset as your appointment day approaches. Most mammograms serve to reassure those that receive them that no cancer is present. Only about two to four mammograms per 1,000 result in a breast cancer diagnosis.

If you’ve scheduled an appointment, the doctor or medical practice conducting the mammogram screening will go over the procedure and may recommend certain actions to take leading up to the appointment. Some recommendations for preparing for the appointment are below.

Before a mammogram, you should:

  • Avoid using antiperspirants, deodorants, powders, creams, perfumes, or lotions on the armpits or under the arm on the day of the exam, as they can show up as white spots on the x-ray and interfere with results.
  • Wear a two-piece outfit since clothing will need to be removed above the waist.
  • Bring a list of questions to ask the radiologist or technologist.

It is also important to tell the technologist at the onset of the exam if there have been any recent changes or issues with your breasts, if you have breast implants, if you are breastfeeding, if you think you might be pregnant, or if you have trouble standing still alone and/or use a cane to walk or stand.

What to Expect at a Mammogram Exam

Mammogram Exam

Once the mammogram is ready to begin, you and the technician will be the only ones in the room. You will be asked to undress and given a wrap to wear during the exam. To get a high-quality image, the breasts must be compressed or flattened. The technologist will place your breast on the machine, and it will be pressed between the machine and an upper plate made of plastic. The plate is lowered to compress the breast for 10 or 15 seconds per image.

The technician will take a minimum of two images of each breast, though more images may be needed if the breasts are larger or if you have implants. The technician will reposition the breast and re-compress it to take images of each side. The sequence is then repeated on the other breast. There may be discomfort or slight pain during the compression. If you feel pain, you should notify the technician so the compression can be adjusted to be more comfortable.

During the exam, it’s important to relax and take deep breaths. Mindful breathing is typically all that is necessary to get you through this quick and relatively painless procedure. Any minor discomfort is well worth detecting breast cancer early, which can often have a more favorable outcome than leaving cancer unchecked and untreated.

After the Mammogram Exam

Your healthcare provider will receive the full results of the mammogram screening after it is completed. If you have not heard from your doctor within ten days, you should call the provider or the facility where the exam took place. Patients who have online access to their medical records may also be able to review the results there. Mammography facilities, however, must provide patients with a summary of their results in an easy-to-understand format within 30 days. Go over the results with your healthcare provider and ask questions if there is anything you do not understand.

Schedule a Consultation

Schedule Mammogram Reminder

Arizona Gynecology Consultants recommends that women over 40 schedule regular mammograms every two years. If you have a family history of breast cancer or another risk factor, consult with one of our physicians to create a custom mammography schedule that addresses those risks.

Our experienced professionals are proud to support breast health and breast health education. Preventative care is the best way to identify breast cancer and other breast health issues as early as possible for the best prognosis. If you are over 40 and have not yet scheduled a mammogram, or are otherwise concerned with your breast health, contact Arizona Gynecology Consultants and schedule a consultation.


  1. https://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/research/interval-breast-cancer
  2. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/screening-tests-and-early-detection/mammograms/mammogram-basics.html
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/mammogram/expert-answers/mammogram-guidelines/faq-20057759
  4. https://pubs.rsna.org/doi/abs/10.1148/radiol.10100974
  5. https://breast-cancer-research.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/bcr2092
Breast Exams Are Necessary for Overall Health

Why Breast Exams Are Necessary for Overall Health

This entry was posted in Ask An Expert and tagged , on by .

Your personal health should be a top priority. No matter what your lifestyle may be, it is important to make sure you are protecting yourself from major health risks and diseases whenever you can. This can help you live a longer, healthier, happier life.

Breast health is a major aspect of your wellbeing, and if you have breasts, you should be sure to monitor them regularly. This can help you and your physician catch any abnormalities or concerns early, when you may be able to prevent serious issues from developing. Unfortunately, people with breasts are not always given the proper tools and resources to take care of themselves. This lack of information or direction can lead to serious health problems that can even be life-threatening if left untreated.

There are several easy ways for you to take care of your breasts from the comfort of your own home. By doing so, you are taking charge of your health and wellness and improving your chances of catching any issues before they become serious.

Basic Facts About Breast Health

Breast cancer is a serious issue all over the world. Unfortunately, many patients develop symptoms of breast cancer without realizing it. This can lead to delays in diagnosis or even misdiagnosis depending on the circumstances. It is vitally important for everyone with breasts to understand what is normal and what is not when it comes to breast health and wellness.

We’ve assembled a list of normal breast conditions you should experience regularly. If your breasts deviate from these benchmarks, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor or with a specialist to investigate your breast health.

Breasts Remain Constant

Unless you are pregnant or breastfeeding, your breasts should not change much. However, keep in mind that it is difficult to say how your breasts should look or feel, because everyone’s body is different. While some people should be alarmed if their breasts become lumpy, others have developed naturally lumpy breasts due to perimenopause or other normal conditions. Remember: breast health is not one size fits all.

You know your body best, so the best way to establish a healthy breast benchmark is to assess your breasts and get an idea of how they look and feel. Then, understand that the look and feel of your breasts should remain the same. If you notice sudden changes, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor.

Standard Temperatures

breasts should remain the same temperature

Your breasts should remain at roughly the same temperature as the rest of your body. If you notice that your breast or part of your breast is warm to the touch, it may be a sign of inflammation. Inflammation can indicate mastitis or other concerning conditions. On the other hand, inflammation may simply be a sign of a pulled muscle in your chest or similar.

Regardless of the scenario, be sure to see a physician if you notice a temperature difference between your breasts and the rest of your body. Similarly, schedule an appointment if there is a lasting temperature difference from one part of your breast to another. Though it may not be a serious situation, it is best to be safe and have it checked.

Normal Nipple Conditions

Most people do not discharge any fluid from their nipples unless they are currently or have recently been breastfeeding or pregnant. If you notice discharge when you have not recently been pregnant or breastfeeding, you may want to consult with your doctor. If you have bloody nipple discharge, you should see a doctor right away whether or not you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Blood discharged from the nipples is never normal and should always be cause for concern.

No Armpit Swelling

The breasts and armpits are not only located near one another—they are also closely linked. Your armpits are the site of several lymph nodes. When you are sick or fighting disease, your lymph nodes often become swollen, inflamed, or sensitive. Under normal conditions, the lymph nodes in your armpit should not cause pain, tenderness, or any other issues.

If you notice swelling in your armpits, it may be a sign that something is happening in your breasts. This is a key indication that you should see a doctor, especially if the issue persists for more than a few days.

Remember: Breasts Can Hurt

Many people believe that pain is an automatic indication of a problem. However, this is not always the case. If you experience breast tenderness or pain, it is likely nothing to worry about. Many people experience breast pain during and before menstruation. Clothing and increased activity levels can also cause some breast pain. Usually, minor breast pain has a simple and innocuous cause.

If you notice that you are experiencing breast pain that is not related to menstruation, or your breast pain only affects one breast and not the other, you should see a doctor. A localized examination may help to rule out problems.

Perform a Self-Breast Exam

Perform a Self-Breast Exam

One of the best ways for you to keep your breasts healthy is by performing a self-examination on your own breasts. Because you have intimate knowledge of your own body and easy access to your breasts, a self-examination can alert you to any changes or concerns that may arise. As mentioned, every body is different, and you know yours best.

While your doctor will examine your breasts at least annually, you should check your own at least once per month. Many people opt to do their breast exams while they are menstruating, as it is a good reminder that it is time to check in. However you would like to schedule your self examinations, just remember to be thorough and perform an exam once per month.

How to Perform a Self-Breast Exam

It is not only important to perform regular breast examinations, it is also important to do them correctly. If you have never been taught how to properly examine breast tissue, you may miss key indicators of serious disease.

Step 1: Choose a Position

You can perform your breast exam in several different positions, depending on what is more comfortable for you and what gives you easiest access to all of your breast tissue. Each option is equally beneficial.

Laying Down

When you lay down on your back on a bed or on the floor, your breast tissue will naturally spread out across your chest. This gives you equal access to all areas of your breast and allows you to be thorough. However, some individuals prefer to see what they are doing, and laying down may not give you a sufficient vantage point.


When you stand for your breast exam, you will need to be able to raise your arm over your head so it is important to perform your exam in a space where there is room to assume this position. Standing allows you examine your breasts in their natural position, where it can be easier to determine what feels normal and what does not.


Many people opt to perform their breast exams while standing in the shower. Though the process is the same as standing anywhere else, the shower offers a private location where the breasts are already exposed. The warm water and soap can also be gentle on the skin, and allow the process to be more comfortable.

No matter the position that you choose, be sure you are able to perform a thorough check of your breast tissue.

Step 2: Inspect Visually

The first step for a breast exam is to inspect your breasts visually. Use a mirror in a room with good lighting. You should be looking for shape changes, dimpling, or swelling. Please note that most people have breasts that are asymmetrical. A difference in size between your two breasts is not a concern unless the difference has changed drastically since your last exam.

Inspect Manually

Step 3: Inspect Manually

When you have finished your visual exam, you can begin to inspect your breasts manually. Begin with light pressure and move around your breast tissue in a circular motion until you have inspected all areas. Repeat this with medium and then heavy pressure to ensure that you have assessed all areas of your breast. Perform the entire process again with your arm raised, then move on to the other breast.

You should be looking for lumps, abnormal areas, discharge, nipple redness, or spots that have changed since your last breast exam. If you feel something strange or abnormal that concerns you, schedule an appointment with a clinic or doctor’s office to have it examined. Though it may ultimately be something innocuous, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Why Inspect Monthly?

Some people wonder monthly breast exams are necessary. The fact is, breast cancer and other diseases can be aggressive, and a significant amount of change can happen in as little as a month. Monitoring over time can also help clue you in to slower changes in your breasts. What’s more, these examinations are free and very easy. It only costs you about five minutes of your time, and there is no invasive testing or inconvenient doctor’s appointments. A self-breast exam is free, simple, and a great way to take care of your health and safety.

You should still continue to get regular physical exams and mammograms done by a doctor in accordance with your age and health status. Self-inspections should not replace professional care, but they can help you catch issues early, while they are still treatable. If you neglect caring for your body and breasts, a minor concern can quickly develop into a life threatening conditions that is both painful and costly to manage.

 Trust Arizona Gynecology Consultants

Trust Arizona Gynecology Consultants

The professional team at Arizona Gynecology Consultants is here to support you in breast and overall health. We are passionate about providing accessible, approachable healthcare, and we look forward to supporting you in your journey. For more information, please contact us online today.

Does Alcohol Consumption Increase Breast Cancer Risk

Does Alcohol Consumption Increase Breast Cancer Risk?

This entry was posted in Ask An Expert and tagged on by .

Alcohol is the most commonly abused drug on the planet, and women face a significant risk of developing breast cancer from overconsumption of alcohol. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer among women all over the world*, and a new study out of Australia confirms the link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer risk.

The Link Between Alcohol And Breast Cancer

Researchers from Flinders University in Australia recently reported that breast cancer accounts for more than 13% of all new cancer diagnoses in Australia and more than 28% of all new cancer diagnoses in women**. One of the most troubling findings from the studies done to reach this conclusion is the fact that many women do not understand the severity of the risk posed by alcohol consumption and how alcohol can increase the risk of developing breast cancer and other serious health conditions. Among women ages 45 to 64, alcohol consumption rates appear to be rising in tandem with alcohol consumption rates.

Understanding The Risks

1 in 8 Women will be diagnosed breast cancer in their lifetimeResearch consistently reports strong links between alcohol consumption and cancer risk, and women who consume three alcoholic drinks per week face a 15% increase in breast cancer risk. Cancer researchers also report that for every drink beyond three per week increases this risk by an additional 10%***. Young girls between the ages of 9 and 15 also face a significantly higher risk of developing benign breast lumps if they consume three to five alcoholic drinks per week. Drinking alcohol can also increase the risk of breast cancer returning in women who received early-stage breast cancer diagnoses.

Drinking alcohol increase estrogen levels in the body. This inherently means that alcohol increases the risk of estrogen-sensitive cancers, like breast cancer. Although some medical research indicates that one alcoholic drink per day can actually help prevent some medical problems like heart disease, this comes with a tradeoff of increasing the risk of developing other health problems. Remember, this applies to all forms of alcohol. It does not matter if you prefer beer, wine, or hard liquor; any type of alcohol consumption will invariably increase your risk of developing certain types of cancer.

Alcohol consumption also causes other medical issues that can make it harder for your body to fight cancer. For example, alcohol is hard on the liver, and people who consume alcohol face a greater risk of developing liver diseases. Alcohol can also interrupt brain function, immune system effectiveness, and digestive functions. Ultimately, drinking causes countless health problems, and any suggested health benefits of daily drinking fall very short of offsetting the potential damage it can cause.

Reducing Your Breast Cancer Risk

Some women are naturally predisposed to developing breast cancer, but any woman can reduce her risk by limiting alcohol consumption. Alcohol is a deeply ingrained part of social life in the United States, Europe, Australia, and elsewhere in the world, but that does not mean you must make it a part of your social life.

Taking a few proactive steps to reduce your alcohol consumption can dramatically lower your risk of developing breast cancer or prevent breast cancer from returning after an early-stage diagnosis and treatment.

  • Proactively limit your alcohol intake. You do not have to give up drinking entirely, but limiting yourself to one or two drinks per week would minimize the increased risk of breast cancer alcohol consumption presents.
  • Abstain from alcohol entirely. While some claim that a glass of red wine each day can improve blood pressure and bolster heart function, there really is no medical benefit to consuming alcohol. Abstaining entirely is the best way to limit your risk of breast cancer, but social pressures can make this difficult for many women.
  • If you know that certain situations encourage you to drink, try to mix up your routine and find new ways to enjoy your leisure time without drinking. Consider reaching out to make new friends or explore a new hobby you have always wanted to try.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Alcohol can wreak havoc on the body, and this happens more acutely in those with poor dietary habits.
  • Seek substance abuse treatment if you think you have developed a drinking problem. Accepting the fact that you need help can be an incredible challenge, but the sooner you address a drinking problem and receive treatment, the sooner you can start making healthier life choices and minimizing your risk of breast cancer and other medical complications.
  • Exercise daily. Even a few minutes of moderate exercise each day can improve your overall health and help prevent different types of cancer.

These are just a few steps you can take to limit the risk of alcohol consumption leading to major medical problems like breast cancer.

Finding Alcohol Abuse Treatment

Due to alcohol’s place in society, many people may find it very difficult to admit to a drinking problem. High-functioning alcoholism is incredibly common today, and this type of alcoholism describes a person who seemingly has his or her life in order while maintaining an alcohol abuse disorder. Eventually, this type of lifestyle will not last, and the individual will need to make significant changes before alcoholism consumes his or her life entirely. Admitting the need for treatment is the first step toward recovery, and the rehab experience can be incredibly beneficial in more ways than just helping you quit drinking. The skills and coping techniques learned in rehab can apply to other areas of life, helping a person cultivate new friendships and healthier habits that contribute to a healthier, safer lifestyle.

The added benefit of seeking alcohol addiction treatment is that quitting drinking will lower your risk of developing breast cancer. Speak with your doctor if you have any concerns about how your alcohol consumption habits could be negatively impacting your health, and do not be afraid of reaching out to ask for help on the road to recovery.