Today I went for my annual mammogram and ultrasound. I cannot stress to all women out there how important it is to get an annual screening.

Mammograms don’t prevent breast cancer, but they can save lives by finding breast cancer as early as possible. Some women wonder about the risks of radiation exposure due to mammography. Modern-day mammography only involves a tiny amount of radiation — even less than a standard chest X-ray. Finding breast cancer early reduces your risk of dying from the disease by 25-30% or more.

Women should begin having mammograms yearly at age 40, or earlier if they’re at high risk (family history of breast cancer). I also get asked whether or not you can get mammography if you have implants. If you have breast implants, there are special displacement views that will be taken to evaluate the breast around your implants. Be sure to go to an imaging center that is experienced in imaging and interpreting breasts with implants. They may also want to get additional imaging like ultrasound. It is also important for women to empower themselves by doing personal breast exams and to know their bodies well. That way if there are any unusual changes, they can alert their health provider early.

Just remember that breast changes can occur because of pregnancy, aging, or menopause; during menstrual cycles; or when taking birth control pills or other hormones. It is normal for breasts to feel a little lumpy and uneven. Also, it is common for breasts to be swollen and tender right before or during a menstrual period. Performing breast exams in the shower with slightly soapy water is a good way to remember to do your exams routinely and consistently.

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