The amount of women’s health information out there can be overwhelming. In fact, two significant updates to screening mammography recommendations were made in the last two weeks alone. With so much information, you must pay attention to the source and ensure it is trustworthy and reliable.
Social media can be fun and is a powerful way to share information. However, searching for correct health information through countless social media posts and websites can be challenging. This is why it is essential to do this through a critical lens as a consumer of health information. So, how can you decide what is credible and what is not? First, examine the source of the information. Is the information coming from a reliable source? This would be a peer-reviewed journal, a government agency, or a medical doctor with specific expertise.
EWBC (Elizabeth Wende Breast Care) should be your trusted source for breast health information. There are several ways we share information with our patients and the public. For example, our newly designed website is now easier than ever to navigate and is full of valuable information related to breast health. You can reference the website If you are unsure of what your upcoming appointment may entail, as it includes videos of the procedures done at EWBC and can help as you prepare for your upcoming visit. We also publish the latest news, guidelines and recommendations, and exciting advancements in breast cancer detection.
Recently, new guidelines related to mammography screening were published; one from the American College of Radiology (ACR) and one from the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). The age to begin screening, the age to stop screening, and the interval at which to screen have long been confusing for women. Unfortunately, confusion remains as the latest USPSTF draft guidelines continue to remain in opposition to annual screening mammography, which is recommended by ACR.
EWBC follows the ACR and Society of Breast Imaging (SBI) recommendations for screening mammography. These societies are made up of breast imaging experts from across the country. These organizations work together to create guidelines and recommendations that will improve the health of the women they see every day.
Below we clear up the confusion surrounding the recent USPSTF guidance by explaining the recommendations of the ACR and SBI.
Annual screening begins at 40 for average-risk women
The ACR/SBI released a joint Statement on the new USPSTF breast cancer screening recommendations. These new USPSTF recommendations are an update to their earlier recommendations from 2011. The new recommendations are a step in the right direction, as they now recommend screening to begin at age 40. However, they fall short in recommending biennial screening versus annual screening, despite a wealth of evidence proving the value of annual screening. EWBC, ACR, and SBI recommend annual mammography screening for all average-risk women ages 40 and older.
The ACR, SBI, USPSTF, American Cancer Society, and others all agree that most lives are saved with annual screening. Therefore, medical experts should clear the confusion caused by differing recommendations and agree to recommend yearly mammography for average-risk women starting at age 40.
Mounting evidence shows that Black and other minority women, Jewish women, and others develop and die from breast cancer before age 50 — or even age 40 — more often than white women. As the ACR 2021 guidelines for average-risk women and the newest 2023 guidelines for high-risk women make clear, screening biennially rather than annually potentially gives a breast cancer another year to advance, which may particularly affect these women.
Guidelines for Black women and of high-risk women
The ACR, in May 2023, released updated breast cancer screening guidelines that underscore the need for early risk assessment — especially among Black and Ashkenazi Jewish women.
“Since 1990, breast cancer death rates in Black women, who develop and die from the disease earlier, have only dropped approximately half as fast as in white women,” said Stamatia Destounis, MD, FACR, co-author of the new guidelines, chair of the American College of Radiology Breast Imaging Commission and managing partner at Elizabeth Wende Breast Care. “We continue to regularly examine the latest evidence and update our recommendations to help save more Black women and others at high risk from this deadly disease.”
The ACR and SBI recommend that all women have a risk assessment by age 25, as called for in the updated 2023 guidelines for high-risk women. In addition, the recommendation is made for women to discuss with their doctor to review whether earlier screening with mammography and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is needed based on their individual risk assessment. EWBC follows these recommendations. We perform a cancer risk assessment on our patients and share the results with patients and referring providers.
You are considered high-risk if:
- You are of Ashkenazi Jewish (10% or greater) descent
- You had radiation to the chest wall as a child
- You have a personal or family history of breast cancer
- You have a genetic mutation in a breast cancer-causing gene (BRCA1, PALB2 etc.)
Factors such as sex assigned at birth, hormone use, and surgical histories place transgender persons at increased risk for breast cancer. However, biological females transitioning to males who do not undergo mastectomy remain at their previous risk for breast cancer and should continue to be screened as such.
As outlined in current (2021) ACR/SBI recommendations for average-risk women, biological males transitioning to females are at increased risk for breast cancer compared to other males due to hormone use. Therefore, they should speak with their doctor about their breast cancer risk.
When to stop screening (age)
The USPSTF states that there is not enough evidence to recommend continuing screening past age 74. This directly conflicts with the ACR and SBI recommendations, which state that women should continue screening past age 74 unless severe comorbidities limit life expectancy. EWBC also recommends that screening continues past 74 if you are healthy.
The bottom line
Trusting the source is a vital part of educating yourself online. Seek health information from your practitioner or other reliable sources. As a patient of EWBC, we hope you trust us with all your breast-health questions and concerns. Follow EWBC on our social media pages, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, where we routinely share reliable information, recommendations, and statistics.