Recently, there has been some increased concern expressed over the radiation exposure that is associated with routine screening mammograms. Is this radiation actually increasing the risk of developing breast cancer?
As with any screening test, the patientÂ chosenÂ for screeningÂ is most importantÂ in maximizingÂ the benefits of screening and reducing the associated risks. For example, we don’tÂ screen men because theyÂ are not at a significant risk of ever developing breast cancer. Although breast cancer does occur in men, this is very rare.
Proper screening first involves choosing only thoseÂ patients that are at highest risk. Women who have first degree relatives that have breast cancer such as a grandmother, aÂ mother, or aÂ sister are at highest risk. Current recommendations alsoÂ discourage women younger than 40 from undergoing routine mammogram screening. Cancer among this age group remains very low.
To decrease your own personal risk of excessive radiation exposure and still provide yourself with adequate screening against breast cancer, you should continue performing self-breast exams monthly, submit to annual physician-directed breast exams, and have a mammogram every two years or so as determined by you and your physician.