On May 9, 2023, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued draft recommendations that average-risk women get screened for breast cancer every two years beginning at age 40.
While this is a step in the right direction, I have never wavered from the science that proved the life-saving benefits of annual screenings commencing at the age of 40. Here’s why.
The average time it takes for a cancer to double in size is approximately 90 days. If the smallest detectable cancer of around 0.3 centimeters goes unnoticed by the radiologist on a screening mammogram, it is much more likely to be seen a year later when it is larger but still less than 1 cm. in size. It is crucial to note that 1 cm. serves as a critical size differentiator. Once a tumor has grown beyond 1 cm., the likelihood of metastasis increases significantly. Breast cancers that are smaller than 1 cm. have an excellent long-term prognosis.
If a woman goes in for screening only once every two years, there is a higher chance that if cancer is present, it will be larger than 1 cm. at the time of detection. The negligible additional radiation associated with yearly screening is significantly outweighed by the numerous benefits of early detection.
I stand with organizations like the American College of Radiology and The Society for Breast Imaging in recommending ANNUAL screening mammograms for average-risk women beginning at age 40.