When should you get a mammogram? Our breast imaging specialists recommend annual screening mammograms starting at age 40 for women at average risk for breast cancer.
This is supported by recommendations of the American College of Radiology and Society of Breast Imaging. Studies have shown that starting annual screening mammograms starting at age 40 save the most lives. In fact, 1 in 6 breast cancers occur in women aged 40-49. In general, women are encouraged to continue screening mammography for as long as they remain healthy.
The introduction of 3-D mammography (tomosynthesis), has increased cancer detection rates and reduced the need for recalls and repeated exams. This means we are finding more invasive cancers and calling back fewer women for findings unrelated to cancer.
Mammography remains the best screening tool we have for detecting breast cancer. However, women who are at increased risk for breast cancer (lifetime risk of breast cancer of greater than 20%) should also have annual screening breast MRI or ultrasound, which further increase cancer detection.
Women who have dense breast tissue may also benefit from screening ultrasound, as dense breast tissue can make it difficult to see some breast cancers on mammography. Annual mammography is still recommended in women with dense breast tissue, however, as early cancers can form microcalcifications that are not visible on ultrasound.
While many organizations have differing recommendations on when to start and how often to perform screening mammograms, there is consensus that the most lives are saved when screening starts at 40. Also, when caught early, treatment for breast cancer can be less invasive and the quality of life can be improved.
That is why those of us who diagnosis breast cancer on a daily basis continue to fight for women’s access to annual screening mammography starting at 40.
Visit the Mammography Saves Lives Youtube channel for more information about the importance of mammography, and answers to common questions.