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When should women get a mammogram?

Although the 2009 U.S. Preventive Services Task Force suggested that women at normal risk for breast cancer should begin mammography screening starting at age 50 and get screened every other year, the consensus among leading organizations continues to be that women should begin annual mammograms at age 40. “Approximately 15 percent of breast cancers occur between the ages of 40 and 50,” says Lawrence Bassett, M.D., section chief of the Iris Cantor Center for Breast Imaging. “Beginning at 40 gives us a good baseline to start with and helps us catch most cancers that occur when a woman is in her 40s.”

Women at elevated risk of developing breast cancer should begin annual mammography screening sooner than age 40. If a woman’s risk is very high, she may also require screening with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Anne Hoyt, MD, medical director of the Santa Monica UCLA Women’s Imaging Center, notes. For women considered to be at very high risk, including those known to carry mutations in the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 genes or who have a strong family history of breast cancer, the recommendation may be to screen every six months, alternating between mammograms and MRIs.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.