Mammography Guidelines: Which One is Right For You?

Latest News, Screening, Topics, What You Should Know

The goal of any screening test is to detect potential health disorders or diseases early in people who do not have any symptoms. Understanding health care screening guideline recommendations can be confusing, especially when there are conflicting recommendations among the expert organizations. This may leave you unsure of which guidelines to follow.  

When it comes to cancer screenings, specifically mammograms, the goal is to detect breast cancer in an early stage. When cancer is found in an early stage, the treatment is typically less extensive and the outcome, including mortality rate and chance of reoccurrence, is typically better. Like other screenings, there are different guidelines out there – some say to start mammograms at age 40, some say 50. Some say get one every year, others say every other year. So which guidelines should you follow? 

“My recommendation, and the recommendation from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network and American College of Radiology, is that women age 40 and older get an annual mammogram,” says Dr. Kimberley Clark-Paul, a breast surgeon at McLaren Port Huron. “If you have a family history of breast cancer, it’s important to talk with your provider to see if you should be screened sooner.”

Top four tips for breast cancer screening:
1. Talk with your health care provider to assess your personal and family history to determine your risk for breast cancer. If you are considered high risk, annual mammography should start earlier, at age 30.
2. Discuss the screening guideline recommendations with your health care provider to understand the potential benefits and harms associated with a screening strategy.
3. Ask your provider if your breast tissue is dense. If it is, talk about the benefits of 3D mammography.
4. Perform regular self-breast exams. Know your body and report any changes to your health care provider right away. 


Mammography Screening Guideline Recommendations

The American College of Radiology (ACR)
Annual mammograms starting at age 40.

American Cancer Society 
Women between 40 and 44 with average risk for breast cancer have the option to start screening with a mammogram every year.
Women 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
Women 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every other year, or they can choose to continue yearly mammograms. Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live at least 10 more years.

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF)
Beginning at age 50 to age 74, mammogram every other year.