June 14, 2018

Breast cancer screening guidelines by age

General Health

There’s no doubt that having regular mammograms is the best way to detect breast cancer. However, you may be wondering when you should start having mammograms and how often you should have one.

Talk to Your Doctor

You should start by talking to your healthcare provider about when you should have a mammogram. When you should have a mammogram depends on a few factors, including:

  • Your age
  • Your breast cancer risk factors
  • Your personal preferences after considering the risks and benefits of breast cancer screening

Your doctor will review these factors and talk to you about the benefits and risks of mammography. Your doctor also will go over the breast cancer screening guidelines and what they mean for you.

Use the Guidelines

Different health and medical organizations each issue their own breast cancer screening guidelines that may be similar, but are not exactly the same.  And, most guidelines only apply to women who have an average risk of developing breast cancer; if you have a higher risk, you might need to begin breast cancer screening at a younger age or have screenings more often.

That’s why it’s so important to talk to your doctor about a personalized recommendation.

However, here are the American Cancer Society’s breast cancer screening recommendations for women with an average breast cancer risk, by age:

  • If you are age 40 to 44, you should talk to your doctor about having routine mammograms. You may choose to start receiving a yearly mammogram.
  • If you are age 45 to 54, you should have a yearly mammogram.
  • If you are age 55 or older, you should have a mammogram at least once every two years or more often if recommended by your doctor.
  • If you are healthy and expected to live at least 10 more years, you should continue to have mammograms. 

Watch for Breast Changes

Breast self-exams can help you to learn how your breasts normally look and feel so you can spot any changes that may occur between mammograms. The most common breast cancer symptom is a lump or mass in your breast, but other symptoms may include:

  • Swelling
  • Skin changes, such as redness, irritation or dimpling
  • Breast or nipple pain
  • Nipples turning inward, or retracting
  • Nipple discharge

If you notice any of these breast changes, you should let your doctor know right away.

When and how often you have mammograms is a decision that you and your doctor should make together. If you are due for a breast cancer screening, Fort HealthCare offers comprehensive mammography services, including 3D mammography. You can also request an appointment online.