Mammography Recommendations Vary by Woman's Age

Patient Expert

The age you go through menopause may increase your risk of developing breast cancer. For instance, a meta-analysis of 117 studies found that a woman’s risk of breast cancer increases by about 3 percent for every year older she is when she goes through menopause. Therefore, it’s important to get the proper screenings. However, when should you get them?

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force reviewed the evidence related to breast cancer screenings and has posted its draft recommendations so that the public may comment. These recommendations are for women who do not have any signs or symptoms of breast cancer, who have not been previously diagnosed with this condition and who are not at high-risk for breast cancer.

The task force made specific recommendations based on women’s age that weigh the research on the benefits as well as the possibility of ill effects from this type of screening.

Women Between the Ages of 50-74

The task force recommends mammography screenings every two years for women between the ages of 50-74. The task force gave this recommendation a grade of “B” and stated, “There is high certainty that the net benefit is moderate or there is moderate certainty that the net benefit is moderate to substantial.”

Women Between the Ages of 40-49

The task force state gave this recommendation a “C” rating and stated, “The USPSTF recommends selectively offering or providing this service to individual patients based on professional judgment and patient preferences. There is at least moderate certainty that the net benefit is small.” The members noted that while these screenings may help women in their 40s lower their risk of dying from breast cancer, the risk of developing breast cancer also is lower among these women.

Women Who Are 75 and Older

The task force found Insufficient evidence in relation to mammography screening for women who are 75 years of age and older. The task force report stated, “The USPSTF concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of the service. Evidence is lacking, of poor quality, or conflicting, and the balance of benefits and harms cannot be determined.”

I’d encourage community members to talk to their doctors about these recommendations and provide feedback to the task force. Furthermore, I’d encourage each reader to work closely with your own doctor to map out an individualized screening plan that takes your history and other factors into account when determining the timeframe to schedule mammograms.

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Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

Susan G. Komen. (2014). Table 10: Age at Menopause and Breast Cancer Risk.

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. (2015). Breast Cancer Screening Draft Recommendations.

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. (2013). Grade Definitions.