Mammograms are a widely used tool for breast screening and early detection. However, there has often been confusion among patients regarding the appropriate age to start breast screening and the frequency of imaging. Published guidelines from a variety of national expert groups provide different recommended ages to start screening and different frequencies for screening, which is probably a major reason why patients may be confused. That’s why Southern Arizona Radiology Associates (SARA) wants to clarify the latest updates on screening mammogram guidelines.
On May 9th, 2023, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), an independent volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine, issued a draft recommendation to update its breast cancer screening guidelines. The updated guidelines fall more in line with recommendations from other expert professional society recommendations, which should relieve some of the confusion regarding breast cancer screening recommendations. The USPSTF now recommends that women of average risk should uniformly begin screening mammograms at age 40, recognizing that a substantially larger number of lives are saved by starting at age 40 rather than age 50. However, the USPSTF did not change its recommendation that a screening mammogram be performed on a biennial basis, or once every two years. The USPSTF maintains its recommendation to undergo a screening mammo every two years until age 74.
|New Guidelines (After May 9th, 2023)||Women ages 40 to 74 should have a mammogram once every 2 years.|
|Old Guidelines (Before May 9th, 2023)||Women ages 50 to 74 should have a mammogram once every 2 years. Women ages 40 to 49 should talk to their healthcare providers about the risks and benefits of mammograms before making a decision regarding starting screening.|
For years SARA has recommended, and continues to recommend that women with an average risk of breast cancer begin screening mammography at age 40, and supports the change that USPSTF is making to its guidelines. However SARA follows the guidelines published by the American College of Radiology (ACR), which has long recommended beginning screening mammography at age 40 for average risk women, but recommends breast screening on an annual basis, or once every year, because annual imaging has been shown to save more lives.
SARA and the ACR also recommend that women with a higher-than-average lifetime risk of breast cancer, such as those with a strong family history of breast cancer, should start screening earlier and undergo additional imaging, such as breast MRI.
On May 3rd, 2023, the ACR also published updated recommendations for women with a higher-than-average risk of breast cancer. Specifically, the ACR recommends that all women should undergo risk assessment by age 25 to allow for planning of appropriate supplemental screening. The ACR emphasizes that this recommendation is especially critical for black women because this patient demographic is at a higher risk of breast cancer at a younger age; and for women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent because this patient demographic is at a higher risk of genetic mutations. The ACR also now recommends that women with dense breast tissue who wish to have supplemental breast imaging should have annual screening bilateral breast MRI performed in addition to an annual screening mammogram.
|Women 40 or older should have a mammogram every year. There is no defined upper age limit, and mammograms should be considered as long as the patient is in good health, able to have the exam performed, and willing to undergo additional testing for abnormal findings, including biopsy.|
SARA is a trusted locally and independently physician-owned radiology practice that operates a complete breast imaging center in Tucson and another complete breast imaging center in Sierra Vista. A third SARA location is slated to open soon in Green Valley, and will also be equipped as a complete breast imaging center. All SARA imaging centers provide state-of-the-art 3D breast imaging to our Southern Arizona neighbors, including breast MRI and 3D mammograms (also known as digital breast tomosynthesis or DBT). Our team of experienced radiologists utilizes these latest technologies to provide accurate results and improve cancer detection rates. Women in Tucson, Sierra Vista, Green Valley, and other communities across Southern Arizona can conveniently schedule a mammogram online or on the phone with the SARA scheduling team. For patients not using insurance, SARA has extended its special breast imaging and breast procedure cash pricing.