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How to Personalize Your Mammogram

Develop the screening schedule that's best for you based on your health risks

  • Quality of life. Some women find more frequent screenings reassuring. They brush off any anxiety about being called back for another mammogram to check a suspicious image. They're relieved when they are found to be healthy. But other women who receive news that they may have breast cancer are highly stressed. A recent study published in the British Journal of Surgery found that some women who received false positive results felt anxious for at least a year. The emotional effect of mammography is difficult to calculate, notes Kerlikowske, but doctors should take it into account when recommending a screening mammogram.

Personalize your screening plan

A woman, consulting with her doctor, can personalize her own screening plan. She might, for example, choose to have a mammogram at age 40 and then, if she has low or average breast density and no other risk factors, wait until age 50 to start periodic screening, according to Kerlikowske. Or women over age 50 with low breast density and no other risk factors may decide on three or four years between mammograms.

An informed approach to breast cancer screening requires more than counting the candles on a birthday cake. "Women have to become more knowledgeable about their own risks so they can make their own decisions," says Marcus Reidenberg, M.D., an internist at New York's Weill Cornell Medical College.

Nissa Simon is a freelance writer who lives in New Haven, Conn.

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