One in eight women will develop breast cancer in the course of their lifetime. But new guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) are trying to help change that.
This week, the task force released draft recommendations that all women – even those at average risk of breast cancer – start having mammograms 10 years earlier.
“The new guidelines align with what most cancer physicians advise – that screening should start earlier,” says Rajani Nadkarni, MD, medical director for medical oncology at the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute and breast medical oncologist at Midstate Medical Center. “Breast cancer is very treatable and curable when caught early, and mammograms are a reliable screening test to detect it.”
How do the new guidelines compare with other recommendations?
The new USPSTF guidelines recommend screening for breast cancer starting at age 40 and continuing through age 74.
For women ages 40 to 50, these new guidelines now fall in line with other leading organizations including the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) and the American College of Radiology (ACR). But the American Cancer Society recommends that women 40 to 44 who are at “average” risk should “have the option” to start screening, stopping short of recommending it for all women, until age 45.
How frequently should I have a mammogram?
Although the USPSTF guidelines recommend screening occur every other year, many physician-led organizations and major cancer centers recommend annual mammograms.
“You should discuss how often to get mammograms with your physician, taking into account breast density and other personal risk factors,” says Dr. Nadkarni.
What changed from the previous recommendation
The previous USPSTF guidelines were for all women to start mammograms at age 50. Women in their 40s were recommended to discuss screening with their healthcare provider based on personal risk factors.
“For many women, mammograms save lives as we can find cancer early and treat early,” says Dr. Nadkarni.