October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the debate continues in the United States regarding appropriate guidelines for breast cancer screening. After extensive review and discussion, the Scripps Breast Cancer Task Force recommends that women continue to follow established “gold standard” screening mammography guidelines, with added consideration of individual patient risk factors and preferences.
Scripps recommends annual screening mammography beginning at age 40 and continuing as long as a woman is in reasonably good health and a candidate for treatment. The debate is whether to begin mammograms at age 40 or 50 (or somewhere in between), and at what frequency. In general, women younger than 50 are at a lower risk for breast cancer. There is an increased risk of breast cancer as women get older.
The Scripps Breast Cancer Task Force’s expanded guidelines for breast cancer screening for average risk patients are as follows:
- Monthly breast self-exams beginning at age 20
- Annual clinical breast exams with a physician or other health care practitioner
- Baseline mammogram and risk assessment at age 40, followed by the opportunity for annual screening mammograms (70 to 80 percent of newly diagnosed breast cancer cases have no significant family history)
Discussion of an individual patient’s situation, needs and concerns with a physician can help assess if a woman is at greater risk of developing cancer, where different guidelines may apply.
- A screening mammogram is a first step to breast health. After a patient’s risk is determined, next steps include developing an individualized screening program based on a patient’s risk and their feelings and preferences in regard to their risk level and screening tests.
- One of the tools available to assess risk levels is the National Cancer Institute (NCI)’s Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool, visit the website.
“The debate continues across the health care industry about appropriate screening. Our approach at Scripps is one where we apply appropriate guidelines, but recognize that individual patient needs and preferences must also be considered and respected,” said William Stanton, MD, chair of the Scripps Integrated Network Cancer Program.
Scripps will continue to review and evaluate new data on breast cancer detection as it becomes available. As always, Scripps will keep patients’ best interests at the forefront of any recommendations regarding screening mammograms or new methods of early detection of breast cancer.
Learn more about Scripps Health , a nonprofit integrated health system in San Diego, Calif.