Breast Cancer Screening Should Happen Yearly Starting At 40
Breast cancer screening should begin when a woman is 40 years old, and it should be offered every year from that age, says the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
The updated guidelines came as a response to the USA's high breast cancer rate. ACOG also noted that the death rate can be significantly reduced if breast cancer is detected early, Medical News Today reports.
In the past, ACOG suggested that screenings start at 40, but then offered every two years, and yearly after 50.
Jennifer Griffin, MD, MPH, ACOG guidelines co-author , explained that the new recommendations are due to three main factors:
- Current breast cancer incidence
- The sojourn time for breast cancer growth - the time between identifying it in a mammogram when it is small and before it becomes large enough so that the patient experiences symptoms. The sojourn time varies, depending on the patient. However, age is the main predictor. For women aged 40 to 49 it is about 2 to 2.4 years, while for females aged 70 to 74 it is from 4 to 4.1 years.
- The potential to reduce death rates
"Although women in their 40s have a lower overall incidence of breast cancer compared with older women, the window to detect tumors before they become symptomatic is shorter, on average," said Griffin.
If detected very early - before the tumor is palpable, and when the cancer is confined to the breast – a woman has a 98% chance of surviving at least five years.
Griffin continued, "If women in their 40s have annual mammograms, there is a better chance of detecting and treating the cancer before it has time to spread than if they wait two years between mammograms."