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Debate on mammograms

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CNN HEALTH MINUTE -

This week marks National Women's Health Week, a time when women are encouraged to get screened for many illnesses.

Doctors say one of the most important tests for women is the mammogram. Over the past few years there's been a lot of debate on mammograms.

But organizations such as the American Cancer Society say mammograms can save lives, and should be a part of every woman's health regime.

Most experts say mammograms are the best way to catch breast cancer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, regular mammograms are the best tools in early prevention and in some situations can detect cancer up to three years, before a lump can be felt.

According to the CDC guidelines, women should have mammograms every two years after the age of 50. After 74, having a mammogram isn't  necessary unless a woman is at high risk. If breast cancer runs in your family your physician may suggest a mammogram before the age of 50.

There are three types of mammograms: screen-film mammography, digital mammography and a new 3D image. The techniques for performing all three are the same. What differs is whether the images take photographic films or use digital files recorded directly onto a computer. The 3D X-ray mammography device was approved by the FDA in 2011. Although the 3D X-ray uses a slightly higher dose of radiation than other mammogram methods, it's still considered safe. And it can give a more in-depth picture which is beneficial for women with dense breasts, or those who have had abnormal results in the past.

It's recommended women talk to their doctors to see which type of mammography is best for them.  

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