When the calendar alert for our annual mammogram pops up, we may decide to cancel, telling ourselves, “None of my female relatives have faced breast cancer, so I don’t need to get checked. Everything looked normal last time.” Or perhaps we decide to postpone it a year, comforting ourselves with statements like “I’m too young and healthy to get breast cancer.”

For some women, the prospect of a breast cancer screening elicits anxiety or concern. But it’s important that we schedule—and keep—our yearly mammogram appointments. As the American Cancer Society notes, mammograms are the “best breast cancer screening tests” available, allowing us to detect the disease in earlier stages when treatment is more effective.

The two greatest risk factors for breast cancer are being female and aging. If we have breasts and birthdays, we have risk. More than 75% of women diagnosed with the disease have no family history. So, when should we start our breast cancer screenings? Women of average risk should begin receiving yearly mammograms at age 40. Those at higher risk—women with a personal or family history of breast cancer or a genetic mutation known to increase their risk—should talk to their health care providers about the need for additional screenings, such as high-resolution breast MRIs and what age to begin.

It can be tempting to put off or even cancel our annual mammogram. But taking 45 minutes—or less—to receive this screening can be lifesaving. With leading-edge technology, private dressing rooms, soft waffle-weave robes and more, The Breast Center at CARTI is committed to making the experience as quick, easy, and comfortable as possible. When you need to make your annual mammogram appointment, ask for CARTI.

Stacy Smith-Foley, M.D., is a board-certified breast imaging specialist and the founding physician of The Breast Center at CARTI.

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