Breast cancer screening


U.S. Panel of Experts: All Women Should Start Regular Breast Cancer Screenings at 40

Baptist Health Cancer Care

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force) is now recommending that all women get screened for breast cancer every other year starting at age 40. The independent panel of experts that sets widely followed screening standards previously recommended that women start mammograms at 50, and for women ages 40-49 to consider the screenings after consulting with their doctors about personal risks. 

The updated recommendation is based on a review of new evidence. Until now, women in their 40s have been encouraged to have a conversation with their healthcare provider about when to start mammograms based on their individual risks. 

Katharine Lampen-Sachar, M.D., section chief of breast imaging at Baptist Health Miami Cancer Institute.

The most important screening test for breast cancer is an annual mammogram. Baptist Health South Florida already supports annual mammograms for women at average risk starting at age 40. Breast cancer is the second most common cancer, and the second most common cause of cancer death for women in the United States.

Other organizations have been recommending annual screening mammograms at age 40 long before the Task Force update, explains Katharine Lampen-Sachar, M.D., section chief of breast imaging at Baptist Health Miami Cancer Institute.

“It's long been recognized that starting annual screenings at age 40 saves the most lives, and it's taken a while for the USPSTF to get there,” said Dr. Lampen-Sachar. “With the current draft recommendation, the Task Force recommends that women get screened every other year. However, the recommendations from multiple organizations, including the American College of Radiology and the Society of Breast Imaging, is that we actually do it every year and not skip a year in between. We have so much data that confirms the importance of doing annual mammography starting at age 40.”

In its update released Tuesday, the Task Force stated it previously recommended that women in their 40s “make an individual decision about when to start screening based on their health history and preferences.” In this new recommendation, the Task Force now recommends that all women get screened starting at age 40. “This change could result in 19 percent more lives being saved,” the Task Force stated.

Until today’s action by the Task Force, there were three separate guidelines “all floating around,” said Dr. Lampen-Sachar. More cases of aggressive breast cancers in younger women are being diagnosed nationally and in South Florida, she adds, increasing the significance of women, especially those at higher risks, to get screened at 40 or at a younger age. Women at high risk for breast cancer because of a known genetic mutation, strong family history or who are of Ashkenazi Jewish decent may benefit from even earlier screenings.

Baptist Health offers screening mammograms at several convenient locations to ensure access to these vital services. Talk to your doctor about your specific risk and what is right for you.

“I would just reiterate that mammography is a tried-and-true mechanism to find breast cancer,” said Dr. Lampen-Sachar. “It's the best tool that we have out there. That's why we call it the gold standard for diagnosing breast cancer. Nothing's ever going to be perfect. But this is a really good tool, and we have so many years of experience to say that it actually really, really works.”

The Task Force Tuesday also addressed disparities among minorities in breast cancer screenings. It stated that Black women are 40 percent more likely to die of breast cancer than White women, “and too often get deadly cancers at younger ages.” The Task Force is calling for more research to understand the underlying causes and what can be done to eliminate this health disparity.

“Ensuring Black women start screening at age 40 is an important first step, yet it is not enough to improve the health inequities we face related to breast cancer,” says Task Force vice chair Wanda Nicholson, M.D., in a statement. “In our draft recommendation, we underscore the importance of equitable follow-up after screening and timely and effective treatment of breast cancer and are urgently calling for more research on how to improve the health of Black women.”

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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