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Although there has been some discussion in recent years as to how often a woman should have a mammogram, the American Cancer Society and most medical associations now agree that a woman should have her first, or baseline, mammogram between ages 35 and 40. After age 40, a woman should have a yearly clinical breast exam and a mammogram as long as they are in good health. She should also perform monthly breast self-examinations. Risk factors include a previous history of breast cancer, a mother or sister who had breast cancer or a precancerous breast condition. For more information about Valley's Cancer Genetics Program, please click here. Follow-up recommendations may change for women with risk factors.

Women ages 20 to 39 with no risk factors for breast cancer should have a clinical breast exam performed every three years.

If you are at greater risk, your doctor will recommend a breast care schedule for you. You should see your doctor immediately if you experience any breast changes or one or more of the following warning signs: a lump or thickening in the breast or armpit; puckering, dimpling or other breast skin changes; a retracted nipple; or bleeding or discharge from the nipple.

You will need to have a written prescription from your doctor for a mammogram. Dress in a comfortable two-piece outfit because you will be asked to undress from the waist up. You will also be asked to remove any jewelry that might get in the way. Do not use deodorant, talcum powder, ointment, cream or lotion on your breasts or underarms.

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