Breast cancer screenings starting at age 40 may save your life

By Regence
May 13, 2024
breast cancer screening

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in American women. It can occur at any age, but the risk increases with age. According to the American Cancer Society, women in the U.S. have a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer at some point in their life, regardless of family history. Breast cancer is also a concern for men and non-binary people.

New guidance: start screening at age 40

Guidelines were released in April 2024 by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommending females with average risk should have breast cancer screenings every other year starting at age 40. The USPSTF recommendations “…apply to cisgender women and all other persons assigned female at birth (including transgender men and nonbinary persons) 40 years or older at average risk of breast cancer.”

Many experts say the task force’s recommendation of mammograms every two years isn’t often enough. Most medical groups recommend annual screenings starting at 40, including the American Cancer Society and the American College of Radiology. They say annual screenings make it much more likely for cancers to be caught when they’re smaller and easier to treat.

The case for 3D mammograms

Many people who develop breast cancer have no symptoms at first, which is why regular breast cancer screening is critical. Though 2D mammograms have traditionally been the go-to screening method, recent studies indicate 3D mammograms may detect some types of breast cancer more effectively, particularly in women with extremely dense breast tissue and an increased risk of breast cancer.

3D mammography captures multiple images, making it easier for radiologists to interpret results. It also reduces the chance of false positive results, which is when something looks like cancer but is not. A false positive result can be stressful because it usually means another appointment for additional imaging. And there may be out-of-pocket costs if the follow-up visit is considered a diagnostic test.  

Find support

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with breast cancer or you'd like to learn more, many resources are available:

Follow breast cancer screening guidelines

Early diagnosis often leads to successful treatment, making timely screenings important. Health experts emphasize the importance of earlier screenings because younger women are at risk for “more aggressive and faster-growing” types of breast cancer compared to older women. Check with your doctor about your breast cancer risk to determine when to begin routine screening.

We’re here to help

Visit to find an in-network provider that offers mammograms. If you have questions or need help, you can use the chat feature when you sign in to or call us using the number on the back of your member ID card. Learn more about breast cancer screenings and preventive care benefits.