Breast cancer screening

The best tool for early detection of breast cancer

There has been discussion about when women should have mammography screening. Many organizations have suggested different ages to begin screening and different lengths of time between screenings.

Research still supports mammography as the best tool for early detection. Screening each year for women age 40 and over saves the most lives. It is important to realize cancers found through screening are often easier to treat and lead to better outcomes.

Woman holding breast cancer ribbon

Talk with your primary care provider to find out when screening is right for you.


Mammography is not a perfect tool, however technology continues to improve. While there are many benefits, there are also a few drawbacks of screening mammography:

  • After each mammogram, there is about a one in ten chance you will be called back for an additional mammogram and/or ultrasound to get a better view of a specific area. In most cases it will end up being nothing worrisome.
  • Of the women called back for more imaging, about two in ten will need a biopsy. (With 30-40% of the biopsies resulting in a cancer diagnosis)
  • Some women may experience anxiety from the additional testing.

It is important to remember that the benefits of screening outweigh the drawbacks. Screening should continue until you and your doctor determine the risks outweigh the benefits. This includes looking at your overall health and life expectancy, particularly after age 75.

Most cancers are found in women with no known risk factors. About 75% of breast cancers are found in women with no family history of the disease and who are not considered high risk.

Please note women at high risk for breast cancer may benefit from earlier or additional screening, such as breast MRI.

Talk with your doctor to find out when screening is right for you, whether you may be at high risk, and if you may benefit from additional testing and specialized breast care.