Getting A Mammogram: What To Know, Even If You’re Young

by | Sep 14, 2022 | Health

When thinking about getting a mammogram, you might sit on either side of the fence.

You could be freaking out about your now-supple breast tissue and wondering if that firmness might be a lump (what does a bunch of grapes feel like, anyway?) or you could be completely blasé and assume that you’ll never have to worry about it until you’re frail as a raisin.

In fact, new research now shows that you should get your first mammogram when you turn 40, a marked jump up from the earlier guidelines stating 50 is the age.

There’s a caveat, says Dr Salomine Theron, branch manager at SCP Radiology’s new Tygervalley Mammography Centre. If there’s a family history of breast cancer, or you’re aware that the BRCA 1 or 2 genetic mutations run in your genetics, you should get tested earlier to rule it out.

READ MORE: What General Health Checks You Should Be having, According to Your Age

The good news is that innovations in the breast cancer space make this disease a little less scary. For one, we now have a “better understanding of the different types of breast cancer and women are now treated according to the type of breast cancer they have,” says Dr Lizanne Langenhoven, oncologist. “There are four different subtypes at the moment, but this is likely to change as our understanding of breast cancer improves.”

In fact, if your breast cancer is caught early, you could avoid chemotherapy completely (Langehoven says chemotherapy use has declined as much as 50% over the last five years.). In some cases, says Langehoven, injections or withdrawal tablets can be used. There’s also a nifty machine called the Mammaprint, which tests the genes to determine whether or not chemotherapy will be necessary or if it would improve chances of recovery. “I think it is important to know that the cure rate for early breast cancer is more than 90%!” says Langehoven. “Breast cancer once might have been a death sentence, but it certainly no longer is.”

READ MORE: 3 Random Things That Can Totally Mess With Your Mammogram Results

That being said, early detection remains the Holy Grail. The sooner a tumour is found, the better the chances of it being nixed, experts agree. This means conducting self-examinations regularly. And, it’s not so much about knowing the “correct” firmness of a breast, so much as it is about keeping track of any changes in the tissue, says Theron. When you turn 40, make sure you have your breasts checked out – medical aids pay for mammograms every second year.

Below, we’ve put a few myths and had Theron bust them.

Is it true that taking a punch in the breast will give you breast cancer? 

“FICTION. Breast trauma can sometimes alert you to an abnormality/lump that was there all along.”

Using talcum powder is bad for you and will give you breast cancer. 

“FICTION.  Talcum powder can however create artefacts on a mammogram, patients should refrain from using it the day of the mammogram.”

If you sleep with a bra on, you’ll develop breast cancer and saggy boobs. 


Do breast implants raise your risk of developing breast cancer? 


READ MORE: This Is What It REALLY Feels Like To Have A Mammogram

If you take The Pill or other hormonal contraception, your risk for breast cancer goes up.

“FACT, any hormonal contraception does increase your risk of developing breast cancer.”

How can you tell if your breast feels like a bowl of oats and not a firm bunch of grapes?

When you examine your breasts you should look out for any changes or lumps.  Breast cancer often presents as a pea-sized, painless lump.

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