Breast Cancer Screening
The importance of breast cancer screening
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in the UK with around 1 in 8 women developing breast cancer in their lifetime. Early recognition and detection of breast cancer increases the chance of treatment before it spreads, leading to more successful outcomes and survival rates.
- Women aged 40-44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms if they wish to do so.
- Women aged 45-54 should get mammograms every year.
- Women aged 55 and older should switch to mammograms every two years or can continue yearly screening.
- Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.
- All women should be made familiar with the known benefits, limitations and any potential harm linked to breast screening.
Women at high risk and those under 40 will be referred to specialist genetic services, consultant breast surgeons or consultant oncologists. However, those considered high risk should get a breast MRI and mammogram every year, typically starting at the age of 30.
This would include:
- Those who have a lifetime risk of breast cancer about 20-25% or greater according to risk assessment tools that are based mainly on family history.
- Those who have a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation based on having had genetic testing.
- Those who have a first degree relative parent, brother, sister or child with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation and have not had genetic testing themselves.
- Those who have had radiation therapy to the chest when they were between the ages of 10 and 30.
- Those who have Li-Fraumeni syndrome.
- Cowden syndrome.
- Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome.
- Or have first degree relatives with any of these syndromes.
According to the American Cancer Society, there is no recommendation and in fact it is recommended against having MRI screening for women whose lifetime risk of breast cancer is less than 15%.
There is not enough evidence to make a recommendation for or against yearly MRI screening for women who have a higher lifetime risk based on certain factors such as having a personal history of breast cancer or having extremely or heterogeneously dense breasts as seen on mammogram.
If MRI is used, it should be in addition to, not instead of, a screening mammogram.
This is because although an MRI is more likely to find cancer than a mammogram, it may still miss cancers that a mammogram would find.
So how long should those at high-risk continue breast cancer screening?
It is recommended that MRI and mammograms continue from the age of 30 and for as long as the woman remains in good health, but this is a personal decision which is discussed carefully with all patients.
The London General Practice assesses family history and high risk groups and offers all those who fall into this category genetic counselling and screening.
Find out more about how private breast cancer screening works here.
At the London General Practice we screen for cancers individually or as part of one of our comprehensive health screens. Our genetic testing cancer panel can also help you understand if you have an increased genetic risk of developing any one of 57 hereditary cancer conditions.