10 Cancer Screening Tests Women Need to Know About

2 of 10

Screening Mammograms for Breast Cancer

What it is: A screening mammogram is a type of X-ray that can uncover evidence of breast tumors. Most mammograms are digital, which means they produce more accurate, detailed images; a newer method to increase cancer detection rates is 3D mammography. Starting at age 40, all women should have annual screening mammograms, advocates Otis Brawley, MD, Chief Medical Officer of the American Cancer Society. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) calls for mammograms every two years, starting at age 50 but stopping screening after age 75. Talk to your doctor about whether to start at age 40 or 50, based on your own family health history and your cancer risk factors. Find an FDA-approved mammography facility by entering your zip code.

Why you should have mammograms: Regular mammograms can catch cancer earlier, when treatment may be more effective. The U.S. five-year breast cancer survival rate has risen from 75 percent to 90 percent since 1975, according to the National Cancer Institute. Experts estimate that the 10 percent of the drop in U.S. breast cancer deaths in recent years is due to increased screening. One risk of mammography is a false-positive result — a mammogram that looks abnormal when you do not have breast cancer. This can be anxiety-producing, and can result in expensive and unnecessary tests and treatment.

2 of 10