What are the current recommendations for breast cancer screening?

Note: The physicians from Pennington Cancer Center at Baton Rouge General cannot provide a diagnosis or medical advice in the Ask the Expert segment because they do not have thorough knowledge of relevant personal and family medical history, and a physical examination. They can respond to general questions about cancer and its treatment.

Question -  What are the current recommendations for breast cancer screening?


Because so many organizations have stated positions on issues such as screening, it is not surprising the public finds the differing recommendations confusing.

The American Cancer Society makes the following widely accepted recommendations based on the best available studies:

  • "Women age 40 and older should have a screening mammogram every year and should continue to do so for as long as they are in good health."
  • "Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam (CBE) as part of a periodic (regular) health exam by a health professional preferably every 3 years. After age 40, women should have a breast exam by a health professional every year."
  • "Breast self exam (BSE) is an option for women starting in their 20s. Women should be told about the benefits and limitations of BSE. Women should report any breast changes to their health professional right away."
  • "Women at increased risk should talk with their doctors about the benefits and limitations of starting mammograms when they are younger, having additional tests (such as breast ultrasound or MRI), or having more frequent exams."

General screening recommendations are typically applicable to individuals at normal risk. Individuals at high risk should discuss individualized recommendations with their physicians.

The following paragraph identifies many of the multiple organizations that have offered recommendations regarding breast cancer screening. There is generally agreement that mammograms should be obtained regularly by women 50 years of age and older. There still remains some controversy over mammograms in women of average risk ages 40-49 and the frequency of regular mammograms.

American Cancer Society (ACS), American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), American College of Radiology (ACR), American College of Surgeons (ACS), American Medical Association (AMA), American Medical Women's Association (AMWA), Canadian Task Force on the Periodic Health Examination (CTFPHE), American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), American College of Physicians (ACP), American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM), National Cancer Institute (NCI), U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF)