NCCN Releases New Patient Guidelines for Breast Cancer Screening and Diagnosis, Emphasizing Annual Mammograms for All Average-Risk Women Over 40

July 28, 2022 — The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) has released new NCCN Patient Guidelines: Breast Cancer Screening and Diagnosis to help people understand their personal risk of breast cancer, when they should start screening and how often. to find cancer earlier, for more treatment options and better outcomes. With this information, they are equipped to have more informed conversations with their healthcare providers and be active decision makers in their long-term health.

The Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines are the latest in the NCCN Library of NCCN Guidelines for Patients, published with funding from the NCCN Foundation® and available free at and through the app NCCN Patient Guides for Cancer. The NCCN Guidelines for Patients provide information on nearly 60 types of cancer, as well as topics such as treatment side effects, managing distress, and survivorship.

“There are many, often conflicting, recommendations regarding breast cancer screening, which cause a great deal of confusion and apprehension,” said Therese Bevers, MD, professor of clinical cancer prevention, The University of Texas MD Anderson. Cancer Centre; Chair, NCCN Guidelines Expert Group for Breast Cancer Screening and Diagnosis. “These are the latest evidence-based guidelines from experts in the field of breast cancer screening and diagnosis from more than two dozen leading cancer centers in the United States.”

“Anyone with breasts carries some risk of breast cancer, so the key is to know your risk,” Dr. Bevers said. “Most women at average risk should get screened annually, starting at age 40, but if there are additional risk factors, a provider may recommend starting earlier.” According to the guidelines, women should undergo a risk assessment for developing breast cancer from the age of 25. The increased risk is based on a number of factors, including age and family history of certain cancers, including ovarian and pancreatic cancer, not just breast cancer.

And regular breast screening and exams are safe and important for pregnant or breastfeeding women, Dr. Bevers added. “A lot of women think they have to put this on hold, but we can protect the belly, and the radiation is very low dose and targeted. It’s important to follow the screenings. Especially for women whose first pregnancy is at age 40 or older.

“Annual mammography screening beginning at age 40 is associated with the greatest reduction in mortality among women at average risk,” said Mark Helvie, MD, active professor emeritus, Department of Radiology, University of Michigan; Member, NCCN Guidelines Committee for Breast Cancer Screening and Diagnosis. “Regular breast screening and examinations help detect breast cancer at its earliest and most treatable stages. Having a mammogram at infrequent or irregular intervals limits its effectiveness. For women at increased risk, the NCCN Guidelines recommend starting screening earlier and often include breast MRI in addition to mammography. »

The NCCN Guidelines for Patients: Screening and Diagnosis of Breast Cancer also addresses the appropriate assessment of the most commonly observed breast symptoms such as a palpable lump, pain, or nipple discharge, although anything unusual with breasts should be discussed with a doctor. Symptoms of cancer can be similar to symptoms of benign causes and they can also occur in unique ways. Therefore, if a provider or patient discovers anything out of the ordinary, the NCCN Guidelines recommend prompt clinical and diagnostic monitoring with imaging and, in some cases, biopsy to determine the correct diagnosis.

“These guidelines will help so many people,” said Sue Friedman, DVM, executive director, Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered. “There is general confusion about breast cancer screening guidelines and what screening people should follow based on their risk. The NCCN Patient Guidelines are an easy way for people to access up-to-date expert recommendations in plain language. »

The NCCN Guidelines for Patients are based on the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines), which are frequently updated by multidisciplinary teams of experts from all NCCN member institutions. The patient versions present unbiased expert advice in an easy-to-read format, with plain language, graphics, images and a glossary of medical terms.

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