Health ConditionsIn the News

New Guidelines for Breast Cancer Screening

The American Cancer Society has released new guidelines for screening women for breast cancer. The changes in the recommendations were based on new research reviewing the benefits and risks of screening with mammography. The new guidelines are intended to balance the benefits of early detection with the risks of false positives, pain, unnecessary anxiety and additional procedures, such as biopsy.

The new Guidelines 

  • Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms if they wish to do so. The risks of screening as well as the potential benefits should be considered.
  • Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
  • Women age 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or have the choice to continue yearly screening.
  • Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.
  • All women should be familiar with the known benefits, limitations, and potential harms associated with breast cancer screening. They should also be familiar with how their breasts normally look and feel and report any changes to a health care provider right away.

The guidelines do not include recommendations for physical breast exam, either performed by a doctor or self-exam. There is a lack of evidence showing that regular physical breast exams result in benefits.  However, women are still advised to be familiar with how their breast normally look and feel so that any changes can be recognized and brought to their healthcare provider’s attention right away.

Who do the new guidelines apply to:

These recommendations are for women with an average risk of breast cancer.

Women with a personal or family history of breast cancer, a genetic mutation that increases their risk of developing breast cancer (such as BRCA ) or who received radiation therapy to the chest between the ages of 10 and 30 are considered higher risk.  For women with a higher risk the recommendation is to get a mammogram and MRI every year, starting at age 30.  However, due to limited research on the best age to start screening, women and their health care providers are urged to discuss the options and make a decision based on individual circumstances.

A personal or first-degree family history of Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Cowden syndrome, or Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome also creates a higher risk.

The American Cancer Society’s recommendations were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Also, listen to the story on NPR by Patti Neighmond:

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Alison Relyea-Parr

Alison Relyea-Parr

Alison is the editor and contributor of A UW-Madison graduate, Alison is also an illustrator and educator.