Confused about Breast Cancer Screenings?

Breast Cancer Awareness Month serves as an annual reminder of the importance of living a healthy lifestyle to reduce the risk of getting breast cancer. This year the U.S Preventive Services Task Force released updated guidelines for breast cancer screening that are being implemented across NYC Health + Hospitals. To address some of the questions our readers have had about breast cancer screening and the new guidelines, we interviewed Dr. Dave Chokshi, chief population health officer of OneCity Health, a subsidiary of NYC Health + Hospitals.

What are the updated recommendations regarding screening for breast cancer?

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which includes physicians and other experts, recently updated its recommendations to say that women who are 50 to 74 years old should have a mammogram every two years. Women who are 40 to 49 years old and those 75 and older should talk to their doctor about whether to have a mammogram.

Women in their 40’s have expressed concerns about conflicting information. For those who don’t have a family history of breast cancer, do they need a mammogram?

The updated guidelines suggest that women who are 40 to 49 years old should talk to their doctor about whether or not a mammogram is right for them. This conversation should take into account family history, other risk factors, and the individual’s preferences. Based on this conversation, a patient and their provider can come to a joint decision about screening.

Are self-exams still recommended?

Regular breast self-exams are no longer recommended by most experts because research has not shown that they are effective. However, if a woman notices breast changes such as dimpling, redness, or a change in symmetry, she should speak to her health care provider.

Can women reduce the risk of getting breast cancer?

Living a healthy lifestyle has been shown to help reduce the risk of breast cancer. Start by quitting smoking, limit alcoholic drinks to one per day, keep a healthy weight, and exercise regularly.

What would you tell a woman who is afraid of having her first mammogram?

Most women describe the mammogram experience as uncomfortable, but not painful. During a mammogram the breasts are compressed between two firm surfaces so that x-rays can be taken. It’s a very safe procedure.

NYC Health + Hospitals offers mammograms in all five boroughs. To find a mammography location near you, please visit