For many women, breast cancer is a very real fear. After all, breast cancer is something that many women – and even some men – will be diagnosed with over the course of their lives. The data backs this up, showing that one out of every eight women will be diagnosed with some form of breast cancer in their lifetimes. Of course, there are a number of risk factors for breast cancer, and managing these risk factors can lead to the early detection of breast cancer – and its treatment – before the disease becomes much more progressive, as it will do without detection and treatment.

First, it’s important to understand your individual risk factors as well as what you are able to do about them. For instance, age is a huge risk factor for developing not only breast cancer but many other types of cancer as well. In just one year, up to 22 women out of every 10,000 women who fall between the ages of 50 and 54 will be diagnosed with breast cancer here in the United States alone. This is why women who are at an average risk of developing breast cancer are advised to get a yearly mammogram done once they reach a certain age – typically anywhere between 40 and 44.

Of course, genetics play a component in breast cancer risk as well. Women with certain gene mutations are much more likely to eventually develop breast cancer, and testing for these gene mutations can be beneficial in knowing and better understanding this risk. For instance, a woman who has a first degree relative impacted by breast cancer has a doubled chance of developing the disease herself. For such women, regular imaging such as through an ultrasound or mammography can ultimately be lifesaving – and should be started earlier on in life than what would normally be protocol, though the age that regular testing begins will vary from patient to patient and even from doctor to doctor.

Getting regular mammograms is critical for any woman, however, though the age at which she begins them will vary. After all, the data surrounding mammography and breast cancer shows how truly impactful and important regular mammograms can really be. For while mammograms don’t treat breast cancer, they still reduce any given impacted woman’s chances of dying from the disease by sometimes as much as 40% (and typically by no less than 20% at the very least), as they allow for early detection.

If something is detected on a mammogram, further steps will be able to be taken. For instance, a breast biopsy might be needed next. During the course of a biopsy, the lump in question will be removed and inspected. This will help to conclusively determine whether or not breast cancer is present. If it is, the patient will then be able to meet with an oncologist and begin to discuss staging and, eventually, a course of treatment. However, getting a second opinion during this process is quite commonplace, and isn’t something to be overlooked. Getting a second opinion can help just about any patient to feel at peace with the diagnosis that they have been given – and to feel, also, that they are being treated in the best and most effective way possible.

Breast cancer is a hugely and truly frightening thing, there is no doubt about it. Cancer, after all, is perhaps one of the most feared diseases in developed countries like here in the United States. However, better and more effective screening technologies are available for women all throughout the country. These screening technologies allow for the earlier detection of breast cancer which, in turn, of course, allows for the earlier treatment of the disease. This improves the rates of survival, especially in women who are particularly at risk. Such women, such as those who have a family history or who have reached a certain age, such technologies are invaluable and can ultimately even be lifesaving. For many people, getting a mammogram has certainly saved their lives – and mammograms will certainly save many more.