On June 19, 2012 the American Medical Association (AMA) announced its new policy on breast cancer screening. The AMA now says that all women should be eligible for screening mammograms starting at age 40 and that all insurance plans should cover the cost of the screening.
The new AMA policy agrees with guidelines from several other professional organizations, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; the American College of Radiology; the American Cancer Society; the National Cancer Institute; and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists guidelines recommend:
- screening mammograms once per year, starting at age 40, for women with average breast cancer risk
- encouraging young women to do regular breast self-exams starting at age 20
- breast exams by a doctor or other healthcare professional every 1 to 3 years for women aged 20 to 39 and every year for women 40 and older
The National Cancer Institute recommends screening mammograms every 1 to 2 years (instead of every year) for women aged 40 to 49, then every year starting at age 50.
The value of routine screening mammograms was questioned in November 2009 when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended that routine screening mammograms for women with an average risk of breast cancer should start at age 50 instead of age 40. The recommended changes were very controversial and were not adopted.
If you're 40 or older and have an average risk of breast cancer, yearly screening mammograms should be part of your healthcare. If your breast cancer risk is higher than average, you may want to talk to your doctor about a more aggressive breast cancer screening plan that makes the most sense for your particular situation.
There's only one of you and you deserve the best care possible. Don't let any obstacles get in the way of your regular screening mammograms.
- If you're worried about cost, talk to your doctor, a local hospital social worker, or staff members at a mammogram center. Ask about free programs in your area.
- If you're having problems scheduling a mammogram, call the National Cancer Institute (800-4-CANCER) or the American College of Radiology (800-227-5463) to find certified mammogram providers near you.
- If you find mammograms painful, ask the mammography center staff members how the experience can be as easy and as comfortable as possible for you.
For more information on mammograms and other tests to detect and diagnose breast cancer, visit the Breastcancer.org Screening and Testing pages.