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.
If you are aged 70 to 74, should you attend an organised mammography screening programme?
Yes, the ECIBC's Guidelines Development Group (GDG) suggests that women between 70 and 74 years old, who are not at high risk of breast cancer and do not have symptoms, have mammography screening for breast cancer.
Every 3 years and not annually.
Who are these recommendations for?
- You are between 70 and 74 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?
You may wish 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
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).
If you have mammography, your risk of death from breast cancer will be lower. It may reduce your risk of developing stage II or higher breast cancer. There will be little or no effect on your risk of death from other causes.
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.
The GDG judged that, as the benefits and harms of screening at 2 and 3 year intervals are broadly similar, 3 years is considered preferable in view of the greater cost effectiveness of less frequent screening