Evolving Mammogram Strategy

Mammogram introduction should be decided on a more personalized basis and not based solely on a woman's age

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Just like a good bra, one size definitely does not fit all when it comes to considering when to begin mammograms. In another step toward personalized healthcare, a new study suggests standards should be modified regarding when to begin mammograms.

The study, by researchers from California Pacific Medical Center, recommends considering family history, breast density, age and a woman's fears when deciding to begin mammograms.

"Talk to your OB/GYN about mammograms."

Co-author Steven Cummings, M.D., of California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute reports that most guidelines have determined that a woman's age is the most important factor for when to launch their lifetime series of mammograms.

This new study indicates that other factors, breast density in particular, are equally, if not more important.

Physicians should evaluate many factors to determine when a woman should begin getting mammograms. Cummings recommends a more tailored, personal approach for breast cancer detection.

Study co-author, Karla Kerlikowske, M.D., M.S., a mammography expert at the University of California, San Francisco, explains that their analysis suggests that women with a close relative with breast cancer or with a history of a breast biopsy should initiate their mammograms at 40 years of age.

Kerlikowske also recommends that women at increased risk for breast cancer, those age 40 to 49 with high breast density and a close relative with breast cancer or a prior breast biopsy, should have a mammogram every two years. Woman with no additional risk factors can safely begin getting mammograms at age 50.

Lead author, John Schousboe, M.D. of the Park Nicollet Institute and the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, adds that yearly mammography is not cost-effective. Schousboe also observes a strong emotional component for women having mammograms.

Some false positives are quite worrisome and frequent mammograms can adversely affect a woman's quality of life. Women who feel a sense of assurance with additional mammograms, however, do not need to alter their mammogram schedule.

This new study appears in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 30, 2011
Last Updated:
July 7, 2011