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Breast cancer screening: common questions and answers

of Muneeza Khan, Anna Chollet • June 2021
Breast cancer is the most common nonskin cancer in women and accounts for 30% of all new cancers in the United States. The highest incidence of breast cancer is in women 70 to 74 years of age. Numerous risk factors are associated with the development of breast cancer. A risk assessment tool can be used to determine individual risk and help guide screening decisions. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recommend against teaching average-risk women to perform breast self-examinations. The USPSTF and AAFP recommend biennial screening mammography for average-risk women 50 to 74 years of age. However, there is no strong evidence supporting a net benefit of mammography screening in average-risk women 40 to 49 years of age; therefore, the USPSTF and AAFP recommend individualized decision-making in these women. For average-risk women 75 years and older, the USPSTF and AAFP conclude that there is insufficient evidence to recommend screening, but the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Cancer Society state that screening may continue depending on the woman’s health status and life expectancy. Women at high risk of breast cancer may benefit from mammography starting at 30 years of age or earlier, with supplemental screening such as magnetic resonance imaging. Supplemental ultrasonography in women with dense breasts increases cancer detection but also false-positive results. (Am Fam Physician. 2021;103(1):33-41. Copyright © 2021 American Academy of Family Physicians.)

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