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Preventive care could save your life. Screening for breast cancer can help detect the disease in its early stages, when it’s easier to treat. While all groups recommend and agree on the importance of breast cancer screening in general, some recommend to begin screening at different ages. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says women at average risk for breast cancer (e.g. no previous breast cancer history, certain family or genetic risk factors, etc) should start regular screenings at age 50 and repeat the test every two years. Other groups suggest other beginning standard screenings as early as 40 years of age for women of average risk, or women with no family history of breast cancer. Bear in mind that there may be some changes to these general recommendations based upon your own personal risk factors, which your doctor may ask and screen for during routine wellness check-up. It can get confusing, but screenings are important, so it’s best to establish a healthy relationship with your doctor and identify the right guidelines for your age, lifestyle and medical situation.
Talk to your doctor about when you should start having breast cancer screenings. Together you can decide what's best for you based on your risk level. Here are a few talking points to bring up at your appointment:
For women ages 50 to 74, talk with your doctor about getting mammograms every 2 years. Based on your risk level, you may choose to get them more often. An open communication with your doctor can help you decide what’s best for you.
You should also think about a yearly well-woman visit with a doctor or nurse practitioner . The well-woman visit can go a long way to help you stay healthy. All Health Insurance Marketplace health plans and many other plans must cover the yearly health exam for women without charging you a copayment or coinsurance at an in-network provider. This is true even if you haven’t met your yearly deductible.
Well-woman visits involve a full health exam, apart from any other visit for sickness or injury. These visits focus on preventive care for women, which may include:
As with the well-woman visits, all Marketplace plans and many other plans will cover these cancer screening services without charging you a copayment or coinsurance at an in-network provider, whether or not you’ve met your yearly deductible.
Your life isn’t worth the risk of not getting screened. Are you up-to-date on proper preventive care?
Originally published October 6, 2014; Revised 2019
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