New Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines
Yearly Mammograms for 40+, but no More Monthly Self-Exams
Specifically, the ACS's breast cancer screening recommendations call for:
- Annual mammograms starting at age 40 and continuing as long as a woman is in good health.
- Annual mammograms may be needed earlier for women at increased risk due to family history, genetic predisposition, or history of breast cancer. The ACS recommends high-risk women have frequent exams and discuss with their doctor whether to have early mammograms or other tests, such as breast ultrasound and MRI.
- Clinical breast exams performed by a healthcare provider should be done annually in women 40 and over, and every three years in low-risk women in their 20s and 30s.
The ACS panel that came up with the new guidelines also reviewed the current evidence on new and emerging breast cancer screening technologies, such as MRI or ultrasound breast imaging. It concluded that none of the new technologies has been proven as effective for primary screening as either film or digital mammography, Saslow says.
"Other technologies may offer benefits as adjuncts to mammography," she says. "For women at increased risk these can be used as screening tools in addition to, but not instead of, mammography."
Amy Langer, who is a breast cancer survivor and the executive director of the National Alliance of Breast Cancer Organizations, tells WebMD there is no longer any reason for women to put off breast cancer screening. Annual screenings are now covered by Medicare and most private insurers, and the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program provides mammograms for eligible women who are uninsured.
"The questions about mammography have been answered," she says. "There is nothing left to resolve. We are absolutely certain that mammography saves lives, and that annual screening is a good idea for women who are 40 and older."