Making sense of breast cancer screening guidelines
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TIMESLEDGER | QNS.COM | OCT. 15 - OCT. 21, 2021 7
Mammograms—diagnostic imaging tests that
help doctors spot potentially cancerous abnormalities
within the breast—are one of
the most important screenings tests women
receive during their lifetime.
Each woman’s personal breast cancer risks affect
when they should begin screening, how often screenings
are needed and if mammograms should be supplemented
with other imaging methods like breast
magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or ultrasound.
Manmeet Malik, DO, FACS, Director of the Breast
Program at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens, recommends
that women follow the screening guidelines
below. These guidelines have been adapted from
various organizations that specialize in women’s
• Begin annual mammograms at 40 or 10
years prior to the youngest first degree relative
with breast cancer.
• Continue breast screening annually as long
as they are healthy.
• Be aware of and tell their doctors about
any changes in the breast.
“You don’t have to have a family
history of breast cancer to be diagnosed
with the disease,” says Dr. Malik.
“Only 5-10% of breast cancer is
from a genetic cause. That is why it is
important for all women to visit their doctors,
know their risk and plan for screening.”
All women are at some risk for breast cancer—
one in eight women develop the disease. Doctors
diagnose the majority of breast cancers in women
over age 55. However, age is only one consideration.
A variety of things can influence breast cancer risk.
When a woman meets with her doctor to develop her
breast cancer-screening plan, her doctor will perform
an exam and take a detailed personal and family
medical history. The findings from this visit help
women understand if they fall into average or higher
Women with an average risk, according to Dr. Malik
have no confirmed or suspected genetic mutation
associated with breast cancer and no previous personal
history of breast cancer or radiation therapy to
the chest. They also have no significant family history
of the disease. Those with a family history have
a higher than average risk, particularly if women
have one or more first-degree relatives who
have had breast cancer.
“When women have a family history,
we recommend starting annual mammograms
and breast exams 10 years
before the age at which their first-degree
relative was diagnosed or at age
40, whichever is earlier,” says Dr. Malik.
In some cases, a strong family history of
breast cancer can suggest mutations in certain
genes that are passed through families.
These genes raise a woman’s risk for multiple
cancers, including breast cancer. The
most common gene mutations associated
with breast cancer occur in the BRCA1 or
BRCA2 genes. Women with a BRCA gene
mutation have a 70 percent likelihood of developing
breast cancer by their 80th birthdays.
If women have family members with a BRCA gene
mutation, genetic testing is recommended to see if
they also carry the mutation. Dr. Malik advises women
with a BRCA mutation to get a clinical breast exam
every six months and a yearly mammogram, breast
ultrasound and breast MRI. Outside of personal and
family history, doctors may also consider these factors
when assessing a woman’s breast cancer risk:
• Ages at which she began menstruating, gave
birth to her first child and, if applicable, completed
• Positive or negative breast biopsies in the past
• Dense breast tissue
• Other breast irregularities, such as the presence of
benign tumors or multiple cysts within the breast
To schedule your mammogram at NewYork-
Presbyterian Queens, call 718-670-1050.
Early cancer detection can save lives.
Schedule your mammogram today at
We are committed to bringing the highest standard of complete
breast cancer care to Queens patients and their families.
Call 718-670-1050 to schedule an appointment.
To learn more visit nyp.org/queens/womens-imaging