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The Siteman Approach Regarding Task Force’s Breast Cancer Guidelines

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In April 2024 the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released its updated breast cancer mammography recommendation. In many instances the well-regarded experts called upon the research community for further study of breast cancer and patients. But on one issue, they were clear: women need to begin mammograms at age 40.

While the task force’s new guidelines are grounded in research, the breast cancer team at Siteman Cancer Center will continue following our own research-based guidelines.

1.) At age 40, begin getting mammograms.

Washington University radiologists at Siteman Cancer Center have long recommended that all patients begin receiving mammograms at age 40 – a recommendation we continue to support and advise. That said, there are women who are at greater risk for developing breast cancer. They may have a specific gene or may have a family history of breast cancer. In all of these instances, your physician would encourage you to begin mammograms before age 40 to be monitored more closely. How much earlier varies from woman to woman.

2.) Every year schedule a 3D mammogram.

At Siteman we know a yearly mammogram is the best screening option we can offer every patient. Ample scientific data tells us that breast cancer can be found earlier when screening is performed annually, so our focus continues to be on giving women in our community who are eligible at age 40 (or younger) a high-quality, 3D view mammogram each year.  We will continue to give our patients the best possible chance to detect breast cancer in early stages. And starting treatment at an earlier stage leads to better health outcomes.

3.) Every patient deserves personalized care.

Washington University radiologist Michelle V. Lee, MD, at Siteman explains, “Annual screening is particularly important for premenopausal women, especially women in racial and ethnic minority groups who tend to develop faster-growing, more aggressive breast cancers at an early age.” Other factors that can drive cancer risk are genetic and/or physiological like carrying the BRCA gene or having dense breast tissue. Since every woman coming to Siteman for a mammogram is different, there are many approaches we offer. From genetic counseling to careful monitoring for high-risk breast cancer, our level of screening expertise is as personalized as it is innovative.

4.) We promote healthy living into and beyond your 70s.

Guidelines are just that, recommendations. They are not necessarily right for every person in every instance. While patients may not look forward to getting screening each year for decades, a mammogram is the best way to detect cancer early, even if early is when you are a senior. That’s why we continue breast cancer screenings, on a case-by-case basis. We recognize that women into their 70s and 80s are as health as ever. We recommend screening as long as women continue to be in good health, without a specific upper age limit.

To schedule your annual Siteman mammogram, click here.