Yearly mammograms: Why you shouldn’t delay

Oct 1, 2021


Throughout 2020, many health centers put elective procedures and screenings on hold—including mammograms. And while some institutions only paused mammograms for a few months, pandemic-related anxieties caused many Americans to delay or skip health appointments even when they were available.

One recent study has shown that mammogram appointments decreased by up to 80% in the early days of the pandemic. An analysis of 60 healthcare organizations across the country found that about half of all women who had a mammogram scheduled in 2020 ended up not going. And an additional one-quarter of women waited to get evaluated for breast cancer symptoms.

If you were one who skipped your mammogram—and never rescheduled it—here’s why it’s more important than ever to get your screening done in 2021.

Mammograms save lives

For women age 50 and older, mammograms have about an 87% accuracy rate. This means that a mammogram accurately detects breast cancer in nearly 9 out of 10 women. Mammography detects signs of breast cancer that you can’t see or feel yourself. And the sooner you find breast cancer, the better your chances of a positive outcome.

Early detection is key

Detecting cancer early means that your doctor finds and diagnoses it before you start noticing symptoms. In these early stages, breast cancer is typically smaller and easier to treat. The chance for early detection is one of the most important reasons to get regular breast cancer screenings.

Your risk increases with age

Most women who receive a breast cancer diagnosis are over age 50. And beyond age 50, your risk increases more. Research shows that about 1 in 8 invasive breast cancers occur in women below age 45. In contrast, about 2 in 3 invasive breast cancers occur in women over age 55. If you skipped your mammogram last year, it’s important to get it this year—if for no other reason than that you are one year older.

It’s easy to fit into your schedule

Many women dread getting their mammogram. They fear it’s uncomfortable or they worry they don’t have enough time. But your visit typically only takes around 30 minutes, with screening time lasting only 15 minutes.

Who should get a mammogram?

With the guidance of your doctor, you should receive screening mammograms regularly.

If you have a family history of breast cancer, genetic risk factors or other concerns, your provider may recommend a different screening schedule or tool. Speak with your healthcare provider to learn more about when and where to get a mammogram, or find a provider near you.