Breast Cancer Screening: Research and Guidelines

PD Beauty and Health LS012552 In 2009, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released updated guidelines for breast cancer screening. The updates called for changes in well-known current practices for mammograms and breast exams. These changes caught a great deal of media attention and raised public confusion and concern.

Breast Cancer Screening

Breast cancer screening tests are designed to find cancer in people who do not have symptoms. The hope is that finding cancer earlier will prevent cancer deaths. Research has tried to measure how well screening tests are doing this. Current breast cancer screening options include mammograms, breast exam by a healthcare provider, and breast self-exam. The USPSTF is a panel of experts in medicine that reviews research and develops guidelines for disease prevention and screening. The American Cancer Society (ACS) and American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) also provide guidelines for screening. These organizations create their guidelines based on their interpretation of current research.Below are guidelines from USPSTF, ACS, and ACOG and summaries of current research. These guidelines and evidence summaries are for women with no symptoms or family history of breast cancer.
Age-Based Guidelines for Mammograms in Women 40-49 years 50-74 years 75 years and older
USPSTF Individualized screening*
(no routine screening)
Every two years No specific recommendation
ACS Every year Every year Every year
ACOG Every year Every year Every year
*The USPSTF recommends against telling all women aged 40-49 years they should have mammograms. The decision to start screening every 2 years before the age of 50 years should be an individual one. It should be based on each person’s values regarding specific risks and benefits.
Clinical Breast Exam Breast Self-Exam
USPSTF No recommendations were made Not recommended
ACS Every 3 years for women aged 20-39
Every year starting at age 40
Optional starting at age 20
Women should be informed of potential benefits and harms.
ACOG Every 1-3 years for women aged 20-39
Every year starting at age 40
Consider for high-risk women

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