New Breast Cancer Screening Recommendations

Posted on: 11/17/2009

On November 17, 2009, a U.S. government task force publicized an update to their 2002 recommendations on the benefits of various breast cancer screening methods. Until yesterday, the recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force were very similar to the recommendations of all the major breast health advocacy organizations including the American College of Radiology, the American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and the National Cancer Institute.

The new recommendation of this task force is a major departure from prior, reasoned guidance, and what we all know to make sense. Despite this latest report from the task force, the guidance of all respected advocacy groups has not changed. RIA urges you to continue to make early detection of breast cancer through timely screening and breast examination a routine commitment to your health. Medical experts believe the benefits of mammographic screening for women age 40 and up outweigh its limitations, and even though mammography is not a perfect test, it remains our best approach to save lives and reduce the devastating effects of breast cancer. We believe that the inconvenience and anxiety of additional testing that inconclusive screening results can create for some women should not outweigh the lives of those saved by routine and early screening mammography.

Even the task force agrees that screening mammography reduces the number of deaths associated with breast cancer among women aged 50 and older, as well as among women aged 40 to 49. The task force is only saying that fewer lives are saved in the 40-49 age group, and public policy makers may consider this when establishing insurance coverage programs. RIA urges third party payers to continue to fund annual mammography starting at age 40, and we urge women to continue to follow the breast screening guidelines of the American Cancer Society:

  • Yearly mammograms are recommended starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health.
  • Clinical breast exam (CBE) should be part of a periodic health exam, about every 3 years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and over.
  • Women should know how their breasts normally feel and report any breast change promptly to their health care providers.
  • Breast self-exam (BSE) is an option for women starting in their 20s.
  • Women at high risk (greater than 20% lifetime risk) should get an MRI and a mammogram every year.
  • Women at moderately increased risk (15% to 20% lifetime risk) should talk with their doctors about the benefits and limitations of adding MRI screening to their yearly mammogram.
  • Yearly MRI screening is not recommended for women whose lifetime risk of breast cancer is less than 15%.

Early Detection is Half the Cure


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