Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American women. Regular screening can help to detect tumors at an early stage when they are most treatable. Several methods are available for screening, including mammography, an imaging test that is especially effective at detecting breast cancer several years before symptoms develop. A number of organizations have published guidelines recommending when women should begin having screening mammograms, some of which disagree. Women should talk to their health care providers to help them decide when they should begin screening.
Recommendations: Ages 50 to 74
- The American Cancer Society (ACS) as well as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend annual screening for those of average risk as follows:
- Beginning at 40 years of age, women should have a mammogram and breast exam by a health professional each year.
- The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendations for those of average risk is as follows:
- Women ages 50 to 74 should have a routine screening mammogram every other year.
Recommendations: Over Age 74
- ACS guidelines state that there is no age at which mammography screening should be discontinued. The decision as to when to stop screening should be based on the individual, her health, and estimated longevity. If you are in good health and your health enables you to be a candidate for treatment, continue getting mammograms.
- The USPSTF has stated that current evidence is insufficient to determine whether there are additional benefits and harms from screening mammography in women 75 years or older and makes no specific recommendation for this age group.
The recommendations above are for women without known risk factors for breast cancer. If you have an increased risk, you should discuss with your doctor the best screening strategy. The ACS link below provides a list of factors that can increase the risk of breast cancer, including genetic predisposition and family or personal history of breast cancer. ACS recommends that women at high lifetime risk be screened with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in addition to mammography annually beginning at age 30.
Sources Used in Current Review
American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2011-2012. PDF available for download at http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@epidemiologysurveilance/documents/document/acspc-030975.pdf through http://www.cancer.org. Accessed July 2012.
American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Early Detection of Cancer. Available online at http://www.cancer.org/Healthy/FindCancerEarly/CancerScreeningGuidelines/american-cancer-society-guidelines-for-the-early-detection-of-cancer through http://www.cancer.org. Accessed July 2012.
National Guideline Clearinghouse. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Breast cancer screening. Washington (DC): American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG); 2011 Aug. 11 p. (ACOG practice bulletin; no. 122). Available online at http://www.guideline.gov/content.aspx?id=34275 through http://www.guideline.gov. Accessed July 2012.
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). 1) Screening for breast cancer: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. 2) December 2009 addendum. Ann Intern Med 2009 Nov 17;151(10):716-726, W-236.