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Doctor explains timeline for starting mammogram screenings

Dr. Younker said one in eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. (KRCG)

October marked National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Doctors said mammograms are crucial in the fight against this disease, because they help find breast cancer early when it's easier to treat.

In this week's Family First segment, KRCG 13 spoke with SSM Health Primary Care Dr. Joanna Younker about when women should start to make mammograms a regular part of their healthcare routine.

Dr. Younker said one in eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. She said the prevalence of the disease makes it crucial women don't put off mammograms for too long.

"The reason we recommend mammograms at 40 or 50 years old - depending on your risk factors - is because we can detect breast cancer when they're very small," she said. "The smaller the cancer, the less likely it is to have spread, and the easier it is to treat."

When it comes to reducing your risk for breast cancer, she said there's no such thing as a "one size fits all" approach.

"The recommendations from the medical colleges are all slightly different," Dr. Younker said. "So that's why we recommend meeting with your doctor on an individual basis and deciding together when it's time for you to start getting mammograms, based on your risk factors."

Dr. Younker said for most women, there is no need to start getting regular mammograms before the age of 40.

"When you're younger, you tend to have more dense breast tissue. On mammograms, that dense breast tissue can look abnormal. That can then lead to you having unneeded testing and unneeded biopsies, and that can cause a lot of fear and anxiety for patients," she said.

If you're 50 years or older though, Dr. Younker said your risk for breast cancer should be a topic you make sure to talk to your primary care doctor about on a regular basis.

"The whole process of getting a mammogram from check in to check out is twenty minutes. Twenty minutes of your time once a year or every other year is going to be nothing in comparison to having something like a Stage 4 breast cancer that you have to treat," she said.

This October, eligible women can get a mammogram for free during SSM Health's Mammothon at St. Mary's Hospital Jefferson City or Audrain.

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