- The lifetime risk (to age 85) of a woman developing breast cancer in 1940 was 5% or 1 in 20; the risk is now 12.6% or 1 in 8. In women 40-49 years of age there is a 1 in 66 risk of developing breast cancer compared with a 1 in 40 risk among women in the 50-59 year age group.
- Randomized controlled trials have demonstrated reduced mortality rates (20-40%) from breast cancer among women invited to undergo screening mammography compared with control groups.
- Although statistically significant benefits/reductions in breast cancer mortality are delayed 10 to 15 years among women 40-49 years of age at the time of screening, several of the screening trials have reported a benefit (23-44%) from screening women 40-49 years of age.
- The benefit of mammography is related to early detection. Regardless of the histological grade of a tumor, a greater than 90% ten year survival has been reported in 40-74 year old women diagnosed with tumors that are 10 mm or smaller in size.
- The effectiveness of any breast screening program will depend on screening frequency, compliance with screening recommendations and the quality of the screening test. These tests can include a self breast exam or mammography.
- In establishing breast screening frequencies, breast cancer growth rates need to be considered. The sojourn time (average time for mammographically detectable, preclinical cancers to become clinically apparent) for all breast cancer types is shorter for pre-menopausal women compared with post-menopausal women supporting annual screening in 40-49 year old women: 1.8 years in 40-49 year old women and 3.5 years in women 50 years of age or older.
Recommendations for Breast Cancer Screenings and Breast Exams
- Monthly self breast exam starting at age 20.
- Annual breast exam by a health care provider starting at age 40.
- Annual screening mammography starting at age 40.
- Women in high-risk categories (first-degree relative with breast cancer; personal history of breast cancer; prior biopsy with atypical ductal hyperplasia or lobular carcinoma in situ) may want to consider starting breast screenings and breast exams at age 30.
This information is provided by Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.