When Should You Begin Annual Breast Screenings?

Begin Annual Breast Screenings at 40

Last year, the American Cancer Society issued new guidelines for breast cancer screenings suggesting women should have mammograms beginning at age 45, unless they wish to sooner. However, not everyone agrees with that recommendation.
The American College of Radiology, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and others still firmly believe what Novant Health has been recommending all along – breast screening for women should begin at age 40, possibly earlier for those at high risk, including anyone with first-degree family history of the disease.
“We continue to follow the guidelines set by the American College of Radiology and Society of Breast Imaging,” said Nicole Abinanti, MD, of Mecklenburg Radiology Associates and director of women’s imaging for the Novant Health Breast Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Breast cancer is more easily treated with better outcomes when it’s found at an earlier age. Annual screening mammography has been shown to reduce deaths from breast cancer, and the most lives are saved when screenings begin at age 40.”
Detecting cancer early has other known benefits, Abinanti added, including the possibility of less-expensive, less-invasive treatments that are usually less disfiguring for a patient.
Understand the types of screenings
Mammograms have helped reduce deaths from breast cancer in the United States by nearly one-third since 1990, according to the American College of Radiology. The screening can reveal small tumors up to two years before a woman or her physician can feel them.
Women at normal risk of breast cancer should have their first mammogram by age 40 and then on a yearly basis.
Women who are at high risk for breast cancer based on certain factors should get a breast MRI and a mammogram every year. This includes women who:
• Have a lifetime risk of breast cancer of 20 to 25 percent or greater, according to the risk assessment tools mainly based on family history
• Have a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation.
• Have a first-degree relative (parent, brother, sister or child) with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, and have not had genetic testing themselves.
• Had radiation therapy to the chest when they were between the ages of 10 and 30.
• Have Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Cowden syndrome or Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome, or have first-degree relatives with one of these syndromes.

For more information about breast screenings, visit NovantHealth.org/pink.