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Breast Cancer Health Center

Breast Cancer Screening and Detection

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When it comes to breast cancer screening and detection, experts and advocacy groups don't agree on when women should start getting regular breast cancer screening mammograms. Without delving into the controversy, consider these facts:

  1. The lifetime risk (to age 85) of a woman developing breast cancer in 1940 was 5% or one in 20; the risk is now 13.4%, or greater than one in 8.
  2. It is estimated that in 2015, about 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women. About 40,290 women will die from breast cancer.
  3. Women who undergo breast cancer screening mammograms have demonstrated significantly reduced deaths from the disease.
  4. The effectiveness of any breast cancer screening program will depend on how often women are screened, compliance with screening recommendations, and the quality of the screening test.


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Recommendations for Breast Cancer Screening

The following are American Cancer Society recommendations for breast cancer screening:

  • Breast exam by a health care provider is recommended by some expert groups every 1-3 years starting at age 20 and annually beginning at age 40.
  • Annual screening mammography starting at age 45; breast cancer experts don't all agree. When you need a mammogram is a personal decision between you and your doctor.
  • Women in high-risk categories should have screening mammograms every year and typically start at an earlier age. Ultrasound screening can also be given in addition to mammograms. Breast MRI may be used if a woman has a lifetime risk of breast cancer greater than 20%. Discuss the best approach with your doctor.



WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on November 10, 2015
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