Age Limits on Mammogram's: When is it Needed?

JONESBORO, AR -- For women, getting a mammogram is part of getting older.  While they're not recommended for women under forty-years-old, women much younger are being diagnosed.

"At 28 I just went in to my gynecologist for my regular check up and she felt a lump," said Jessica Blazer.

A little over a year ago, Jessica Blazer was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer.

"I had asked for a mammogram when I was 25 or 26 and at that time my doctor said there was no need for me to have a mammogram because of my age, even though my mother did have breast cancer," said Blazer.

Ten years before her diagnosis, Jessica Blazer's mom Joann died after a three year battle with breast cancer.  Even though some women are diagnosed at a young age, a mammogram is not recommended until about 40 years old.

"The actual risk for ladies that are younger than forty is just so small," said Dee Collins.

Dee Collins is a care navigator for St. Bernards and said there are reasons for the recommendation.

"The tissue is so fibrous and so thick that the amount of x-ray that it would take for a younger woman's breast to penetrate that is so much that it would do more harm than good," said Collins.

Here is a break down of the risk factor for women to be diagnosed with breast cancer, and for women younger than thirty that risk is very small: one in two thousand.

For women who have a family history of breast cancer, there is a DNA test available to find out if in fact you are a carrier of a certain gene that can make you more susceptible to getting breast cancer.

"When I was diagnosed at 28 they thought I would be a good candidate for genetic testing which I did do and got the results half way through chemo that I have BRCA 1 gene," said Blazer.

Women who do have that gene are 65% more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer and it could be necessary to get a mammogram earlier than recommended.

"You have to have a physician who will stand with you through that and understand what the risk factors are for this individual and why it is necessary for you to have that mammogram so much earlier," said Collins.

Blazer tells Region 8 News she now has a clean bill of health.

Not only women are effected by breast cancer, in 2007 over 2000 men will be diagnosed with the disease.