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:
- 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.
- It is estimated that in 2017 about 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women. About 40,610 women will die from breast cancer.
- Women who undergo breast cancer screening mammograms have demonstrated significantly reduced deaths from the disease.
- 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.
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.
- The American Cancer Society recommends women ages 40 to 44 should have a choice to start yearly screening mammograms if they would like. Women ages 45 to 54 should have a mammogram each year and those 55 years and over should continue getting mammograms every 1 to 2 years.
- Women in high-risk categories should have screening mammograms every year and typically start at an earlier age. Many centers also do 3-D mammography. This is similar to regular mammograms but many more pictures of the breast are taken at various angles to produce a 3-D picture for the radiologist to check. Ultrasound screening can also be given in addition to mammograms. Breast MRI may be used in certain women with an increased risk of breast cancer.