What age should a woman start getting mammograms?

(KOMO file photo)

Breast cancer screening is important because it can find a problem early when it's easier to treat, reducing the chances of dying early from breast cancer.

But there's a lot of confusion about when a woman should start having mammograms. That's because different groups have different recommendations.

For example: The American Cancer Society says a woman 40-44 years old “should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening mammograms if they wish to do so” and women age 45-54 should get mammograms every year.

On the other hand, the American College of Radiology (ACR) urges women to start screening at age 40.

Debra Monticciolo, a professor of radiology at Texas A&M University says the ACR recommends starting at 40 because the risk of getting breast cancer goes up substantially at that age.

"One in six breast cancers occur in women in their 40s, so it's a common disease,” Dr. Monticciolo said. “The risk goes up substantially at age 40, so yes, it's a young age, but cancers are aggressive in women of that age and that's really when women should start screening.”

Bottom Line: Every woman with an average risk of breast cancer should talk to their doctor as they approach age 40 about when they should start getting an annual mammogram. Those who are at high risk should probably start that discussion sooner.

More Info:

American Cancer Society Breast Cancer Information

What is a mammogram?

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