Breast Health News for 40 & Over
New recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) urges all women to get screened every other year, starting at age 40.
Up until now, the recommended start age for mammograms was 50 while individuals between the ages of 40-49 with certain risk factors were encouraged to speak to their health care provider about an appropriate start time.
However, new research pointing to a rise in breast cancer among people in their forties has prompted the USPSTF to expand its prior recommendation. According to the National Cancer Institute, the diagnosis of breast cancer among women in their 40s has increased 2% per year on average between 2015 and 2019 alone.
This new guideline brings the USPSTF recommendation into closer alignment with the long-standing recommendation of The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), which encourages annual mammograms. Members of ACOG, including providers like myself, strongly support shared decision-making between doctor and patient in all matters related to an individual’s health, including screening for breast cancer.
Currently the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the US, breast cancer is very treatable when caught early, and mammograms are a reliable screening test to detect it. Experts involved in the creation of the new recommendation predict that if all women were to begin receiving mammograms every other year starting at the age of 40, mortality rates from breast cancer would drop by 20% and save 8,000 lives per year.
While all screening recommendations apply to all people assigned female at birth who are at average risk of breast cancer, it’s especially important for black people. The USPSTF notes that black women are more than 40% more likely to die from breast cancer than white women.
It’s also important to note that both the USPSTF and ACOG recommendations are for individuals with an average risk. Individuals with a personal or family history of breast cancer or other risk factors should consult with their care provider about when to start and how often to have mammograms.
Dr. Themarge Small, MD, FACOG, is an obstetrics & gynecology specialist at SVMC.