Know the facts for a lifetime of breast health.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is the perfect time to rally around the fundamentals of breast health. With competing guidelines in the healthcare landscape, it’s often difficult to understand what is right for you. At Washington Radiology, we anchor around the guidelines of the American College of Radiology (ACR), which were recently updated in 2023 to recommend that all women, particularly Black and Ashkenazi Jewish women, have a risk assessment performed by age 25, instead of the previous guideline of age 30. While women of average risk should begin annual mammograms at age 40, women with a higher risk will need to begin screening earlier than age 40, and may need to consider supplemental screening, depending on type of risk.
Women are considered to be high risk if they have a calculated lifetime risk of breast cancer of 20% or more. There are multiple lifetime risk assessment models available. Work with your physician to determine what is right for you. If you do have a 20% or greater lifetime risk of breast cancer, your physician can work with you to develop a breast health action plan.
Breast Health Timeline:
Age 20: Begin monthly breast self-exams to find out what’s normal for you. If you’ve never performed a breast self-exam before, go here to find out how.
Age 25: Develop a risk factor assessment and breast health action plan with your primary care physician.
Age 40: If you are of average risk, begin annual screening mammograms. Your first mammogram is also called a baseline mammogram, which is important because it will determine your breast density. Women with dense breast tissue have a higher risk of breast cancer.
When to stop: Breast health is ageless. There is no established age at which to stop getting an annual mammogram. If you are healthy, continue doing what keeps you healthy. “What I tell women in their 70s is you have a long trajectory ahead of you,” said Dr. Chirag Parghi, Washington Radiology's Chief Medical Officer. “We catch a lot of breast cancer in women in their 70s and can help those patients live longer and longer.”