Harvard Health Letter

Changes to mammogram screening recommendations

mammography guidelines, breast cancer screening, image tests, breast health
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News briefs

The guidelines for routine breast cancer screenings are changing again. The American Cancer Society (ACS) published its new recommendations Oct. 20, 2015, in The Journal of the American Medical Association, suggesting that women at average risk for breast cancer now wait until age 45 to begin getting yearly mammograms (it had been age 40) and then get yearly mammograms until age 54. After that, the ACS now recommends that average-risk women ages 55 to 74 transition to screening every other year (instead of annually). It's a big shift for the ACS, and the recommendations are now more in line with the guidelines that came from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) in 2009, which recommended mammograms every two years for average-risk women ages 50 to 74 and advise against routine screening before age 50 in these women. The USPSTF guidelines have been controversial since they came out. But no one is saying that women at increased risk for breast cancer should wait to get a mammogram; it's a decision that must be made by a woman and her doctor, based on her risk factors. One other big change to the ACS guidelines: that women continue screening mammography only if they have a life expectancy of 10 years or longer.