Mammograms to detect breast cancer should start at age 40, new guidelines say : Shots - Health News A rise in breast cancer among younger women prompted the U.S. Preventive Task Force to issue new screening guidelines. They recommend mammograms every other year, starting at age 40.

Mammograms should start at age 40, new guidelines recommend

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There is a new recommendation for breast cancer screening. The U.S. Preventative (ph) Services Task Force is urging women to get mammograms every other year beginning at the age of 40. As NPR's Allison Aubrey reports, some women may also opt for additional screenings based on their personal risks.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: For years, there's been conflicting recommendations on the best age to start having mammograms. But with breast cancer on the rise among younger women and data pointing to clear benefits of screening, the evidence is strong to support this new recommendation, says Dr. Carol Mangione, an internal medicine specialist at UCLA.

CAROL MANGIONE: We want to come out with a strong message that all women should really start screening at 40.

AUBREY: Breast cancer rates have been rising among women in their 40s, says task force chair Dr. Wanda Nicholson, who's an obstetrician-gynecologist. She says the evidence is clear that early detection with mammograms can help save lives.

WANDA NICHOLSON: By starting at age 40, continuing every other year, we found that we can reduce cancer deaths substantially, up to nearly 20% more lives saved.

AUBREY: That's about 8,000 lives a year. Dr. Nicholson says all women can benefit from screening, and she wants to especially encourage Black women to follow the recommendations.

NICHOLSON: We know that Black women are 40% more likely to die from breast cancer compared to white women. We also know that all too often that Black women get more aggressive cancers at an earlier age.

AUBREY: Women with a family history of breast cancer may benefit from earlier or more frequent screenings. And even for women at average risk of the disease, many healthcare providers already recommend annual mammograms. Dr. Carolyn Malone is a radiologist in Hackensack University Medical Center, where women are encouraged to be screened every year.

CAROLYN MALONE: The benefit outweighs the risks. The more cancer is detected, more lives are saved. The earlier you find it, it's not just treatable. It's curable.

AUBREY: Women with dense breasts are more likely to be called back for additional screenings because it can be hard for doctors to spot cancer.

MALONE: Breast density is a masking effect. So it decreases the sensitivity of mammography. We can miss small cancers that are just blending in with the dense tissue.

AUBREY: That's why some people are referred for 3D mammograms, ultrasounds, or MRIs. The task force has called for more research to better understand the benefits of more frequent screenings. For now, the task force says those 40 and older shouldn't wait to get their first mammogram.

Allison Aubrey, NPR News.

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