Advanced awareness, early detection and research has led the way in improving the chance of success in beating breast cancer; early detection is still critical. In the last 20 years, significant developments have paved the way to increasing survival of a breast cancer diagnosis.
The American Cancer Society estimates 1 out of 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. Early detection of breast cancer, usually before any lumps or other physical symptoms arise, is still the best chance for women to survive the disease — the five-year survival rate for women whose breast cancer is detected before spreading beyond the breast is 99%. Those who are diagnosed after it has started to spread are also seeing better survival rates due to improved treatment options.
Mammograms remain the standard tool for screening, though other technologies have been introduced including 3D mammograms, MRIs and ultrasounds.
The American Cancer Society’s latest recommendations on screening frequency are:
For women of average risk
- Those ages 40 to 44 have the option to start screening with a mammogram every year.
- Ages 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
- Ages 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every other year or continue yearly mammograms. Screening should continue if a woman is in good health and expected to live at least 10 more years.
For women of high risk
These women should have a mammogram and breast MRI annually, usually beginning at age 30. They have certain risk factors based on their family or medical history, such as:
- Having a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation (based on genetic testing) or a first-degree relative (parent, sibling or child) who has been genetically tested and has this mutation.
- Having radiation therapy to the chest when they were age 10 to 30.
- Have Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Cowden syndrome, or Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome, or have first-degree relatives with one of these syndromes.