These recommendations are for women who do not have any symptoms of breast cancer, are not at high risk of breast cancer, and want to know when they should be screened.

Recommendations

If you are aged 45 to 49, should you attend an organised mammography screening programme?

Yes, the ECIBC's Guidelines Development Group (GDG) suggests that women between 45 and 49 years old, who are not at high risk of breast cancer and do not have symptoms, have mammography screening for breast cancer.

How often?

Every 2 or 3 years and not annually. 

Who are these recommendations for?

  • You are between 45 and 49 years old
  • You do not have a high risk of breast cancer
  • You do not have symptoms of breast cancer

What would following these recommendations mean for you?

It will be important to speak with your healthcare professional to determine if you are at high, average or low risk of breast cancer.

You can also speak with your healthcare professional about how you feel about the balance of benefits and harms, especially:

  • Overdiagnosis leading to overtreatment, including the possibility of having an unnecessary mastectomy
  • Anxiety and distress
  • How fearful you feel about breast cancer
  • How able you are to live with uncertainty

Definitions

Overdiagnosis: An overdiagnosed cancer is a cancer diagnosed by screening which is so slow-growing that it would never have been diagnosed in a person’s lifetime if the person had not been screened. We cannot tell which cancers are of this type, however, so, treatment is the same as if it was not overdiagnosed. Therefore, you will be advised to have treatment, possibly including mastectomy (removal of the breast).

Additional considerations

If you were to have mammography, your risk of death from breast cancer may be reduced and there may be little or no change to your risk of death from other causes.

The GDG agreed that women between the ages of 45 and 49 would have greater health benefits, partly due to greater incidence and mortality from breast cancer, compared to women between the ages of 40 and 44.

Your risk of stage II or greater breast cancer is probably reduced, and it is uncertain whether mammography screening may reduce your risk of developing breast cancer of stage III or higher.

Annual screening, compared to screening every 2 or 3 years, may reduce your risk of dying from breast cancer but might increase your chance of being overdiagnosed.

Annual screening may also increase the chance of you receiving a false positive mammography result, which means that you would have further tests after screening, including biopsy. These tests will confirm that you do not have cancer, but you may have suffered unnecessary anxiety and distress.

Documentation for professionals