U.S. doctors are recommending mammography for women outside of the guidelines of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), suggesting an understanding that more women’s lives are saved by starting breast cancer screening at age 40. This information was highlighted in a recent study about breast cancer screening recommendations in JAMA Internal Medicine and an accompanying editorial.

“The JAMA study results are encouraging for women, as primary care doctors and gynecologists who were surveyed are recommending mammograms to screen for breast cancer in younger and older women, based on mammography’s potential to save lives,” said Debra Monticciolo, MD, FACR, chair of the American College of Radiology (ACR) Commission on Breast Imaging. “The doctors understand differing screening recommendations and still advise women based on the potential to save lives, allowing women to decide for themselves how they feel about possibly being recalled for additional mammograms or ultrasounds,” she added.

“There is agreement on the fact that the most lives are saved by annual screening beginning at age 40,” said Jay Baker, MD, vice president of the Society of Breast Imaging (SBI). The ACR and the SBI, along with other major breast imaging groups, the USPSTF and  American Cancer Society (ACS) also agree that women should be informed of the fact that some may be recalled for additional mammograms or ultrasounds, which may cause some anxiety. But women wanting to maximize the life-saving benefit of mammography will choose annual screening starting at age 40.

“The fact is that the most lives are saved by annual screening starting at the age of 40. It is important that doctors understand this and relay it to their patients,” said Monticciolo.