LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Danielle Tatum says she won’t take any chances when it comes to breast cancer risk.
“I certainly don’t want to miss anything that could have been caught early versus later,” says Tatum, 54, who gets a mammogram every year.
Not all women are as certain, after conflicting reports and studies led to varying conclusions about how often mammograms are needed.
“People are confused about how frequently they should get a mammogram, and when they should start,” says Yvonne Bohn, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica.
A study just released by the medical journal Annals of Internal Medicine found that breast density is a key factor in determining frequency of mammograms.
“Women with breast density who have other risk factors that increase their risk of breast cancer should have more regular screenings of mammography,” says Bohn.
Dense breasts contain more glandular and fibrous tissue than fat.
The study found that women between age 50 and 74 who have dense breasts and high risk factors should get annual mammograms.
Women who have lower density breasts and lower risk factors can wait up to three years.
Risk factors for breast cancer include family history, age, race and results from prior biopsies.
The Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium provides a free online risk calculator to help women make decisions about mammograms.