Breast cancer is a commonly misdiagnosed condition. A physician could fail to diagnose breast cancer completely, deliver a delayed diagnosis or make an error such as classifying an invasive cancer as noninvasive.

Diagnosis mistakes could prevent you from getting the timely treatments you need as a patient with breast cancer. One thing you could do to maximize your chances of catching breast cancer as early as possible is to schedule mammograms.

The latest mammography screening guidelines

In the past, professional medical organizations such as the American Cancer Society have recommended annual breast exams for women ages 45 to 54, with the option to start annual screenings for women 40 to 44. Now, however, guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force say women should not start annual breast exams before the age of 50, and that they should get them every two years.

The Task Force recommends that women who are ages 50 to 74 schedule a mammogram once every two years, but that younger women may not need to go in at all. It came to this conclusion after determining that cancer screens for women in their 40s could have inaccurate results, with a higher risk of false positives and emotional distress. That being said, the Task Force agrees women with a higher risk for breast cancer should create tailored mammogram schedules with their doctors.

When you should schedule a mammogram

Timely breast cancer treatment can be critical for your overall prognosis as someone with breast cancer. Check in with your doctor to see if you have an increased risk of breast cancer due to family history or another factor. If so, you may need to start scheduling mammograms sooner rather than later. Otherwise, you will not need to schedule a mammogram until the age of 50. From there, you should go in for breast exams once every two years according to the latest research.