It can be hard to know when to stop and start breast cancer screening, and how often to get mammograms, given that guidelines from different organizations vary. And women at higher cancer risk because of family history or other factors may need to start screening earlier.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which sets national standards for preventive care, advises mammograms every two years for average-risk women between ages 50 and 74. Women in their 40s may also opt for biennial screening, depending on their risk factors and preferences. The Task Force offers no advice for women over 75 because research is lacking.
The American Cancer Society says that for average-risk women ages 40 to 45, annual mammograms are optional. It advises annual screening between ages 45 and 54; biennial screening for ages 55 and older (though women may choose to continue annually), continuing as long as a woman has a life expectancy of at least 10 years.
Both guidelines are reasonable, but work with your doctor to come up with the most suitable screening schedule for you, based on your values, preferences, and risk factors.
This article first appeared in the June 2019 issue of UC Berkeley Health After 50.