For women aged 50–59 years: we conditionally recommend screening for women not at increased risk with mammography every two to three years.
These recommendations don’t apply to anyone at increased risk of breast cancer, such as those with a personal or family history of breast cancer, carriers of specific gene mutations (or who have a first-degree relative with these mutations), or chest radiation therapy before 30 years of age.
Screening is done to attempt to detect potential disease or illness in people who do not have any signs or symptoms of disease.
It is an x-ray of the breast(s) to identify potential cancer.
Screening is a personal decision. It is important to weigh the benefits and harms of screening for women in your age group (as shown below) with your health care provider to decide what is best for you.
Overdiagnosis – Not all breast cancers will cause harm to a woman in her lifetime. With screening, some women will be diagnosed with a cancer that would not have caused them a problem in their lifetime; this is called ‘overdiagnosis’ and leads to unnecessary treatment.
False positives – A false positive test occurs in someone who tested positive (abnormal mammography) but who ultimately is shown not to have cancer. It can lead to additional testing, including biopsy, and may cause psychological and physical harm.
In general, harms of screening are greater in younger women and decrease with age.
There is evidence that shows that screening lowers a woman’s risk of dying from breast cancer. In general, the benefits of screening increase with age.
This tool is not a decision aid but is intended to be one step in the shared decision making process.