New Guidelines Recommend Mammograms Should Begin at Age 40

New Guidelines Recommend Mammograms Should Begin at Age 40The US Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) has released new guidelines concerning mammograms – most specifically, that women should start breast cancer screenings at age 40.

States Wanda Nicholson, MD, MPH, MBA, and USPSTF Chair:

More women in their 40s have been getting breast cancer, with rates increasing about 2% each year. By starting to screen all women at age 40, we can save nearly 20% more lives from breast cancer. This new approach has even greater potential benefit for Black women, who are much more likely to die from breast cancer.

Reports NPR:

The new recommendation applies to all people assigned female at birth who are at average risk of breast cancer.

The recommendation is based on a review of new evidence by an independent panel of experts at the task force. Until now, women in their 40s have been encouraged to have a conversation with their health care provider about when to start mammograms based on their personal risks.

Previously, the USPSTF recommendation was for women to start mammograms at the age of 50, and for women ages 40 to 49 to consider a mammogram based on personal risk.

Dr. Carol Mangione, an internal medicine specialist at UCLA who served as previous Chair of the U.S. Preventive Services Taskforce and is co-author of the new recommendation, tells NPR, “New and more inclusive science about breast cancer in women younger than the age of 50 has allowed us to expand our prior recommendation. There are a lot more women getting breast cancer, and that influences our recommendation.”

She goes on to note, “If all women followed our new recommendation, we could reduce mortality from breast cancer in the U.S. by about 20%,” which could save about 8,000 lives a year. “That’s a big reduction in mortality from breast cancer.”

Mangione calls this new recommendation “incredibly important,” especially because Black women are 40% more likely to die from breast cancer (per NPR). “Starting at 40 actually creates the most benefit for Black women in our country,” she says.

The Task Force is “urgently calling for more research” to address this disparity.

About the task force’s recommendations

Per the USPSTF:

The Task Force recommends that all women get screened for breast cancer every other year, starting at age 40 and continuing through age 74, to reduce their risk of dying from this disease.

In this final recommendation statement, we are also urgently calling for more research that will allow us to build on our existing guidance and help all women live longer and healthier lives. Specifically, we need to know how best to address health disparities across screening and treatment experienced by Black, Hispanic, Latina, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, and Alaska Native women. We also need studies on what more should be done for women with dense breasts, and we need evidence on the benefits and harms of screening in older women.

They note that this is a shift from the previous recommendation of getting screened for breast cancer every other year between ages 40 and 50. Now, they recommend all women get screened beginning at age 40.

The task force also notes regarding women with dense breasts:

Nearly half of all women have dense breasts, which increases their risk for breast cancer and means that mammograms may not work as well for them. Women are generally told that they have dense breasts after they’ve had a mammogram. These women deserve to know whether and how additional screening might help them stay healthy. Unfortunately, there is not yet enough evidence for the Task Force to recommend for or against additional screening with breast ultrasound or MRI. We are urgently calling for more research on whether and how additional screening might help women with dense breasts find cancers earlier.

It is important to note that all women, including those with dense breasts, should be screened starting at age 40. While we call for more research, these women should talk to their clinicians about their options for follow-up testing so that they can get the care that’s right for them.

They also say, regarding Black women and breast cancer:

Ensuring Black women start screening at 40 is an important first step, yet it is not enough to improve these inequities. It’s important that patients receive equitable and appropriate follow-up after screening and effective treatment of breast cancer. We are urgently calling for more evidence to better understand whether Black women could potentially be helped by different screening strategies.

What are some breast cancer statistics?

The American Cancer Society reports the following:

  • Breast cancer accounts for about one in three of every new female cancers each year.
  • In 2024, about 310,720 women will develop invasive breast cancer.
  • Doctors will diagnose about 56,500 cases of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).
  • About 42,250 women will die from breast cancer.
  • The average risk of developing breast cancer during a woman’s lifetime is 13%, or a one-in-eight chance.
  • Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women.
  • There is a one in 40 chance of dying of breast cancer (or about 2.5%).
  • Breast cancer death rates have declined 42% between 1989 and 2021.
  • Black women have the highest death rate from breast cancer, thought partially to be caused by the fact that they have a higher risk of triple-negative breast cancer.
  • There are more than four million breast cancer survivors in the United States.

When breast cancer is caused by malpractice

While breast cancer still remains a significant health concern for most women, advancements in screening and treatment have improved prognoses dramatically. However, medical errors can disrupt this progress. One important factor is early detection, often achieved through mammograms and examinations. Unfortunately, misinterpretations of these tests or a failure to order them altogether due to negligence can lead to a delayed diagnosis. This delay allows the cancer time to progress, potentially leading to a more advanced stage and a less favorable treatment course. In these situations, medical malpractice may be a possibility, and consulting with a lawyer can help determine if your healthcare provider’s actions deviated from the accepted standard of care, which could lead to a legal claim. The attorneys at Paulson & Nace, PLLC can help.

Please contact Paulson & Nace, PLLC through this contact form or by calling our Washington, DC office.