When You Should Actually Begin Annual Mammograms

If you’ve ever spent time researching the right age to begin annual mammography screenings, you probably left more confused than before. Even as new research is published, experts continue to disagree on screening guidelines because the science just isn’t crystal clear.

It’s helpful to keep one thing in mind: the blanket recommendations that associations and experts provide are exactly that – recommendations. It’s what we - you and me, doctor and patient - do with those recommendations that matters most.

Every woman’s road to prevention is different. And while there’s not a definitive answer to what age you should schedule your first mammogram, there’s also no ambiguity about the importance of getting screened. Overall, mammography is the most effective screening tool used today to find breast cancer in most women.

Prevention is also more than just getting a mammogram. You’ve heard it a hundred times, but knowing your personal risk factors such as family history, smoking, drinking, hormone therapy, and being overweight is vital. But we can’t stop at knowing the risk; we have to take the steps to reduce the ones we can control, and that is something your doctor can help you with.

When discussing mammography options with my patients, I blend the recommendations from American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and American Cancer Society:

  • Ages 20-39: Conduct monthly self-exams. Click here to learn how to perform one.
  • Ages 40-44: Women should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms if they wish to do so.
  • Ages 45-54: Women should consider getting mammograms every year.
  • Ages 55 & up: Women can switch to mammograms every two years, or can continue yearly screening.

This breast cancer risk assessment is also a helpful tool. You can even print out the results and bring it to your next doctor’s appointment to help get the conversation started.


Candace Moore, MD
Baton Rouge General Physicians - Obstetrics & Gynecology

Phone: (225) 237-1880

October 2, 2018