Breast cancer screening and detection is a topic that causes some controversy in the medical ﬁeld, since not all experts and advocacy groups agree on what is best. Therefore, exactly when women should start getting regular breast cancer screening mammograms is still up for debate. However, despite the differences of opinion, the following facts remain undisputed:
- The amount of deaths from the disease was signiﬁcantly reduced for women who underwent breast cancer screening mammograms. According to Peter Jokich, MD, director of the Rush Breast Imaging Center, “The gold standard for detecting small, early-stage breast cancers is still mammography.”
- The estimate for new cases of breast cancer in 2013 is 232,340 for females and 2,240 for males.
- The estimate for breast cancer deaths in 2013 is 39,620 for females and 410 for males.
- The lifetime risk (up to age 85) of a woman developing breast cancer is currently 13.4%–greater than one in eight. This is signiﬁcantly higher than the mere 5% risk that women living in 1940 faced.
- A breast cancer screening’s effectiveness depends on:
- Compliance with screening recommendations,
- The screening test’s quality, and
- How often women are screened.
Though the precise details regarding breast cancer screening are still up for debate among experts and medical professionals, it is safe to say that the following recommendations are ones that women should take into consideration. Guidelines for breast cancer screening include:
- Starting at age 20, women should have a breast examination by a health care provider every three years.
- Beginning at age 40, women should increase the frequency of these breast exams to once annually.
- Around age 40 or 50 (there has been some dispute among breast cancer experts), a woman should begin having annual mammograms. Age aside, when you begin yearly screening mammography is a personal decision between you and your doctor.
- Things are different for women in high-risk categories. These individuals should consider the following:
- If your lifetime risk is above 20%, breast MRI is an option.
- You should begin having mammograms at an earlier age and be extra intentional about scheduling one every year.
- Ultrasound screenings are also an option for you; these are typically given in addition to mammograms.
The best way to ﬁght breast cancer is through regular screening and consequent early detection. The sooner you are aware of the disease, the sooner you can begin treatment. Catching breast cancer early also prevents the spread of cancer to other areas of the body. As with all medical concerns, discuss with your doctor what is best for you personally.
More Breast Cancer Resources
Susan G. Komen Research and Scientific Programs
American Cancer Society: More Breast Cancer Screening Tests
American Cancer Society: Breast Cancer Early Detection
Rush University Medical Center: Breast Cancer Screening