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Figuring out your personal path to breast cancer screenings

The medical community offers conflicting recommendations as to when women should start to undergo regular mammograms.

TAMPA, Fla. — When should you or someone you love start receiving regular breast cancer screenings depends on who you ask.

Right now, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends women between ages 50 to 74 have mammograms once every two years. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says women who are 40 to 49 years old should talk to their doctor or about when to start and how often to get a mammogram.

Dr. Neeharika Makani, a medical oncologist hematologist said, "There are differences in terms of what the recommendations are and what the guidelines are but the thought process is the sooner we find breast cancer, which is the purpose of screening, patients with stage 0 or stage 1 can essentially live a completely normal life."

Dr. Makani said guidelines are based on various factors, including the emotional, physical, and financial burden unnecessary tests can be on a patient and the health care system.

Her biggest advice is to talk with your doctor about your personal concerns, family history, and lifestyle.

Raven Robinson knows the importance of paying attention to your body and not putting off an exam. She found a lump in her breast at age 31. 

"My first thoughts were I’m going to die. The doctor pretty much told me without treatment, we don’t see you living past five years. I’m a single mother I have a 2-year-old son so I was like that’s not an option," said Robinson.

She completed sixteen rounds of chemotherapy in September and is preparing for a mastectomy.

Robinson encourages everyone to get regular check-ups and do self-exams. If something doesn't feel right, don't delay.

"It doesn’t matter what age you are. Cancer doesn’t discriminate," she said.

Dr. Makani said treatment has come a long way and nowadays doctors almost always send tumors for genetic testing. Based on the results they can target cancer in a more specialized and personalized manner.

"We identify what mutations are abnormal in that tumor and now we have new, novel therapeutics through either pill or IV that specifically targets that cancer," she said.

It's the kind of treatment that keeps people with Stage 4 breast cancer alive longer and longer.

RESOURCES FOR YOU

Mammograms: Get in the Know

Breast Cancer Screening Recommendations

Limitations of Mammograms

American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Early Detection of Cancer

New Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines Address Heightened Risk for LGBTQ Persons and Black Women

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