Ages 40 and
older: It is important for you to discuss with your doctor the medical evidence about mammograms before you decide when to start having mammograms and how often to have them. For woman at average risk:
The American Cancer Society and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that most women begin screening at age 40 and then have a mammogram every year.
The risk of breast cancer increases with age, and the age at which testing no longer helps reduce death from breast cancer is not known. If you are 75 or older, talk to your doctor about mammography as a regular part of your health care plan.
You can find out your personal risk level at
Early detection is an important factor in the success of breast
cancer treatment. The earlier breast cancer is found, the more easily and
successfully it can be treated. The two methods commonly used for early
Mammogram. A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast that can often find tumors that are too small for you or your doctor to feel.
Clinical breast exam (CBE). During a clinical breast exam, your doctor will carefully feel your breasts and under your arms to check for lumps or other unusual changes. Talk to your doctor about whether to have a clinical breast exam.
Make sure you know what your breasts normally
look and feel like. When you know what is normal for you, you are better able
to notice changes. Tell your doctor right away if you notice any changes in
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the breast may be used as a screening test
for women who have a high risk of breast cancer. This includes women
who test positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, or have two or more close family
members who have had breast cancer before age 50. MRI may also be useful for women who have breast implants or for women whose breast tissue is very dense.
American Cancer Society (2009). Prevention and Early Detection: American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Early Detection of Cancer. Atlanta: American Cancer Society. Available online: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/PED/content/ped_2_3X_ACS_Cancer_Detection_Guidelines_36.asp.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2011). Breast cancer screening. ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 122. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 118: 372–382.
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2009). Screening for breast cancer. Available online: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspsbrca.htm.
ByHealthwise Staff Primary Medical ReviewerSarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical ReviewerDouglas A. Stewart, MD - Medical Oncology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.