Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the United States. It is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women, second to lung cancer. A woman’s chance of developing invasive breast cancer during her lifetime (between ages 20 and 80) is 1 and 8, with the risk increasing with age.
Currently there is no known prevention for breast cancer. However, earlier detection with yearly screening mammography and better treatments has produced a significant decline in breast cancer deaths.
Following are recommended screening guidelines for breast cancer. Visit our breast cancer page to learn more about this disease.
The American Cancer Society recommends the following for average risk women:
- Yearly mammograms starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as the woman is in good health.
- Clinical breast exam (CBE) about every 3 years for women in their 20’s and 30’s and every year for women 40 and over.
- Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast change promptly to their healthcare provider. Breast self-exam (BSE) is an option for women starting in their 20’s.
Some women - because of their family history, a genetic tendency, or certain other factors - should be screened with MRI in addition to mammograms. Talk with your doctor about your history and whether you should have additional tests at an earlier age.
High Risk Guidelines
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network and the American Cancer Society recommend different screening for adult women with:
- A family history of breast cancer that places them at a lifetime risk for breast cancer that is 20% or greater:
- Clinical breast exam every 6-12 months
- Annual mammogram and breast MRI screening starting at age 40 or 5-10 before the earliest known breast cancer in a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter), whichever comes first
- A hereditary breast cancer syndrome:
- Clinical breast exam every 6-12 months starting at age 25 or 5-10 year before the earliest known breast cancer in the family, whichever comes first
- Annual mammogram and breast MRI screening starting between age 20 and 35 (depending on the specific hereditary syndrome), or individualized based on earliest age of onset in the family
- Consider screening for other types of cancer associated with the specific hereditary syndrome
- A personal history of breast cancer:
- Depending on various factors (such as your age, breast density, family history, and the type of treatment you had), your treating physician(s) will recommend appropriate breast cancer screening, which may include mammography with or without breast MRI screening
- Prior thoracic radiation therapy (typically mantle cell radiation for the treatment of lymphoma):
- Beginning 8-10 years after the radiation therapy or at age 25, whichever occurs last -
A family history of breast cancer may warrant a consultation with a genetic counselor, especially if it is any of the following:
- At an early age (prior to age 50)
- In two or more relatives on the same side of the family
- In association with ovarian, uterine, or thyroid cancer on the same side of the family
- In a family that is of Ashkenazi Jewish descent (Jewish with ancestors from Eastern Europe, usually Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine and Russia)
Learn more about the American Cancer Society's recommendations for the early detection of breast cancer.