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Skipping Mammograms Raises a Woman's Odds for Breast Cancer Death

Published on Jun. 08, 2022

calendar with "schedule mammogram" written on a checklist item

Have you skipped your annual mammogram screening?

Women who miss even one recommended mammogram are more likely to die from breast cancer, a 2021 study* found.

*published March 2, 2021 in the journal Radiology.

In this blog:

  1. Routine Mammograms Can Save Your Life
  2. When Should You Have Your First Mammogram?
  3. What Happens During a Mammogram?
  4. What Are 3-D Mammograms – And Do I Need One?
  5. It’s Never Too Late to Begin Screening

Routine Mammograms Can Save Your Life

woman receiving a mammogram with a machineA decades-long study that followed over half a million women found that among those who were diagnosed with breast cancer, women who had their routine mammograms in the two years before diagnosis were 50% less likely to die from breast cancer* than women who missed both screenings, and 29% less likely when compared to women who attended just one of the two screenings.

In other words, consistently participating in annual mammograms provides significantly higher protection against death from breast cancer. 

"Next to skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common form of fatal cancer in women," says Yelena Kier, DO, FACOI, a Medical Oncologist at Munson Healthcare. “Missing just one annual mammogram can significantly increase your odds of dying from breast cancer.”

* within 10 years of diagnosis

When Should You Have Your First Mammogram?

Routine mammograms are generally recommended for women starting around age 40-50. Your provider will let you know during your annual well-woman visit when it’s time to schedule one.

If you’re at higher risk, your regular mammograms may begin as early as age 30 or even younger. Do you have higher-than-average risk factors for breast cancer? Take our quiz.

If you don’t have a family history of breast cancer or a genetic mutation for breast cancer, it may be tempting to skip your mammogram. But it might surprise you to know that 75% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease. That’s why it’s so important to talk to your primary care provider or your OB/GYN about the best age to begin screening – and how often to screen.

What Happens During a Mammogram?

mammogram calendarDuring a mammogram, your technician will take X-ray images of your breasts to detect lumps and any other abnormalities. The technician will help you place one of your breasts on the platform of the mammogram machine so thorough images can be taken.

Once your breast is compressed, you’ll be asked to hold still for several seconds while the X-rays are taken. For the best overall imaging, each of your breasts will be placed in different positions. The entire process typically takes about 20-30 minutes. 


Should I get a 3D mammogram?

Anyone can get a 3D mammogram. 3D mammograms are especially important for those with a personal risk for or history of breast cancer, or for those with dense breast tissue. 

3D mammography can detect smaller growths because of the more detailed images it takes. It can also reduce your chance of receiving a call-back request for further imaging – or even an unnecessary biopsy. 3D mammography is available at many Munson Healthcare locations.

Don’t delay your routine mammogram

If you skipped your annual mammogram, reschedule this life-saving screening as soon as possible.

Continuing to delay what could be breast cancer only increases your odds of fatality. Take heart that even the most advanced stage of breast cancer is often treatable.

"Delaying or avoiding your mammogram screening won’t stop breast cancer from developing and spreading. It will only delay detection,” Dr Kier says. “You can save your own life by getting your regular, routine mammogram."

Schedule your mammogram today

Talk to your primary care provider or family doctor about a referral for your mammogram. If you don’t have a healthcare provider, use our Find-a-Doc feature to find one close to where you live.

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