Given recent changes to recommendations for screening mammography by the United States Preventive Task Force and the American Cancer Society, many women have questions about when to start screening mammography, how often they should be screened, and why there are so many different recommendations. The Iowa Clinic has a multidisciplinary team of physicians dedicated to breast health who have put together the following information.
When should I start screening mammography?
The Iowa Clinic Women’s Center adheres to the recommendations for screening mammography from the American College of Radiology, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists and the American College of Surgeons. These professional societies continue to recommend that screening mammography begin at age 40 and continue on a yearly basis. The goal of screening mammography is to save the most lives possible from breast cancer. In order to accomplish this goal it is vital that women aged 40-49 are included in the screening population since annual screening mammography starting at age 40 results in the greatest mortality reduction, the most lives saved, and the most life years gained (LYG).
Here are some facts to consider complied by the Society of Breast Imagers:
- The incidence of breast cancer increases substantially around the age of 40 (the rate of breast cancer for ages 40-44 is twice that for ages 35-39)
- One in six breast cancers occur in women aged 40-49
- Annual screening starting at age 40 saves approximately 6,500 more women’s lives each year in the U.S. than the recommendation of screening every other year starting at age 50.
- The years of life lost to breast cancer are highest for women in their 40’s.
- The largest and longest running breast cancer screening trials in history have reconfirmed that regular mammography screening cuts breast cancer deaths by roughly a third in all women ages 40 and over (including women ages 40-49).
- A recent study published in Cancer showed that more than 70 percent of the women who died from breast cancer in their 40s at a major Harvard teaching hospital were among the 20 percent of women who were not being screened. Because medical science cannot determine which cancers will advance to kill a woman and which will not, all women 40 and older should be screened annually.
How often should I have a screening mammogram?
To obtain the maximum lifesaving benefit of screening mammography, screening should be performed on a yearly basis
For information on “false positives” and overdiagnosis, please click here.
 Hendrick and Helvie
 Hellquist et al; Tabar et al