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When Should Mammogram Screening Begin?

The recommendation for the age at which women should begin mammogram screening — the use of X-rays to detect breast cancer — generally differs among health organizations. In the US, the American Cancer Society recommends average-risk women start mammogram screening annually at age 40. The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), a group of health experts put together by the US Department of Health and Human Services, recommends biannual mammogram screenings starting at age 50 for average-risk women, which is similar to the guidelines in Sweden and England. The USPSTF’s reasoning was that early screening might produce false positives or lead to unnecessary treatment. Experts typically agree that women who are at high-risk, such as having a family history of the disease, should work with their doctors to determine when to screen. Women in their 20s and 30s might be advised to start performing self-examinations or have physical examinations performed by clinicians as precursors to mammograms.

More about breast cancer:

  • Japan and Uruguay are among the few developed countries that do not have official guidelines for mammogram screening.

  • Mammograms are estimated to catch about 80% of all cancers that are present during screenings.

  • The breast cancer survival rate in low-income countries without cancer screening is about 40%, compared with more than 60% in developed countries.

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