The National Cancer Institute recommends a mammogram for women over the age of 40 on a 1- to 2-year basis, depending on the individualís personal and familial risk factors. Women over the age of 50 should schedule mammograms on a yearly basis. It is estimated that if every women over the age of 50 had her yearly mammogram, breast cancer deaths in this age group would drop by more than 25%.
Mammograms are also recommended for women 35 and older who have a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer. A strong family history means two or more close relatives diagnosed with either of these cancers on either side of the family, particularly if the diagnoses occurred before age 50.
Women under 40 with no significant family history of breast cancer are discouraged from getting mammograms for two reasons:
Breast cancer in women under 40 with no family history is very unusual
Younger womenís breast tissues are denser and more difficult to examine reliably, even with X-rays.