Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed among women in the United States. It’s estimated that about 1 in 8 will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime.
By Carol McPhail
If you’re a woman with an average risk for breast cancer and you’re 40 or older, you should be having regular mammograms, according to a USA Health physician. That’s also the new draft recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), which had previously suggested 50 as the age to begin breast cancer screening.
Many other organizations, including USA Health, were already recommending mammograms for 40-year-old patients, said Elizabeth Park, M.D., a radiologist at USA Health. “That has been what we, as radiologists, have recommended for some time, but now we’re all in agreement to start at age 40 to get your annual mammogram,” Park said.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed among women in the United States. It is estimated that about 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. A woman's risk is determined by a combination of multiple factors, including a family history of breast cancer, whether she has had children, her age at the beginning of her menstrual cycle, and many other factors. In addition, women with dense breast tissue may require additional screening, Park said.
During a mammogram, a patient’s breast is placed on a flat plate and compressed while X-rays are taken. The images are then examined by a radiologist to identify lesions that may be cancerous.
When it comes to breast cancer screening, Park says that one size does not fit all. “Different people have different risk factors, so it’s always a good idea to have a conversation with your doctor to see what they recommend for you individually,” she said.
Some facilities, including the Breast Care Center at USA Health, offer 3D mammography, which combines multiple X-rays to create a three-dimensional image, allowing the radiologist to see beyond areas of density.
The most recently installed technology at the Breast Care Center is an automated whole-breast ultrasound (ABUS), a supplemental screening technology that uses sound waves to detect cancer in dense breast tissue.
“We are learning a lot more right now about dense breast tissue and what that means in terms of your risk and how difficult it is to image the breast,” Park said. “We may talk to you about additional recommendations for screening that may improve our ability to detect cancer. It all depends on your individual risk.”