David A. Russell, MD, is a radiologist certified in breast imaging at Banner Gateway Medical Center in Gilbert.
Question: What are the latest recommendations for breast mammography?
Answer: The lifetime risk of developing breast cancer in women living to age 85 is one in eight (12.5 percent). The only current screening proven effective in reducing overall mortality in the general population is mammography. If breast cancer is detected early by mammography, the prognosis is excellent and most women will live a normal life span.
The recommendations for screening for the general population are to have a baseline examination at age 35, followed by annual mammograms beginning at age 40. Annual mammograms are recommended until age 90, since each mammogram after the age of 80 results in a 37percent reduction in diagnosis of late stage breast cancer.
Although it is important to remember that 75 percent of women who develop cancer have no family history, the risk of breast cancer increases dramatically when one or more first degree relatives have had breast cancer. Annual screening in women with a significant family history should start at age 30. Certain high risk women including those with a known defect of the BRCA genes, multiple first degree relatives with breast and ovarian cancer, a history of chest radiation at an early age and other risk factors are often encouraged to start annual mammography screening as early as 25 years of age.
Women should always rely on their primary medical provider to determine their individual risk assessment and an appropriate screening mammography schedule.