By Dr. Dave Hnida

(CBS4) -About half of all women, even among those who regularly have screening done, have never heard of the term “baseline mammogram.” Yet a new study shows why a baseline exam is so important.

Simply put, the baseline mammogram is the first mammogram a woman has done. And it is the standard against which future exams can be compared as breast tissue changes in density thickness, even small cysts and lumps over the years.

Being able to compare means a more accurate interpretation of the mammogram, with less chance a woman will be called back for an ultrasound, repeat set of mammography images, or a biopsy. Most importantly, it means a lot less anxiety.

Its estimated that for every 100 mammograms, 10 will have something look odd and a call-back will be necessary. Of these 10 women, two will go on to have a biopsy.

When women have a baseline for comparison, those call-back numbers drip significantly.

One takeaway from all of this is that the baseline mammogram needs to be available for comparison for future exams. You can make this easier by having your mammograms at the same facility, or associated imaging facilities so the pictures can be shared and compared.

The American Cancer Society recommends most women consider having their first mammogram at age 40.

By age 45, all women should be screened every year.

From ages 54-74, the screenings may be every one-two years depending on the woman.

Some women in good health will continue screening after age 74.

Keep in mind, breast cancer is the most common cancer of women, and is the leading cause of death in women ages 40-49.

And while being free of a family history of breast cancer is reassuring, most women who develop breast cancer have no family history of the disease.

Please be screened. And get that baseline done on time.

The study comes from the American College of Radiology.

Dr. Dave Hnida is CBS4’s Medical Editor. He blogs about the latest studies and trends in the health world. Read his latest blog entries, check out his bio or follow him on Twitter @drdavehnida


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