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Mammograms Save Lives | Print |

Women age 40 and older should have a screening mammogram every year, and should continue to do so for as long as they are in good health.

Current evidence supporting mammograms is even stronger than in the past. In particular, recent evidence has confirmed that mammograms offer substantial benefit for women in their 40s. Women can feel confident about the benefits associated with regular mammograms for finding cancer early. However, mammograms also have limitations. A mammogram will miss some cancers, and it sometimes leads to follow up of findings that are not cancer, including biopsies.

While mammograms will detect most breast cancers, a small percentage will be missed. Also, sometimes signs on a mammogram that appear abnormal may require a biopsy (the removal of a sample of tissue to see whether cancer cells are present) that will turn out not be breast cancer. In this instance, a woman has undergone a procedure for an abnormality that wasn’t cancer, and she has been through a period of anxiety about the possibility of having breast cancer. However, mammograms, despite their limitations, remain the most effective and valuable tool for decreasing suffering and death from breast cancer.

There is no fixed age at which women should stop getting mammograms. Mammograms for older women (over age 65) should be based on the woman’s health and whether or not she has other serious illnesses. Age alone should not be the reason to stop having regular mammograms. As long as a woman is in good health and would be a candidate for treatment, she should continue to have mammograms.
Adapted from American Cancer Society's Web Site