Mammograms continue to be the gold standard for breast cancer screening. How often to do these tests for average risk women is debatable depending on the health organization that you follow or discuss with your health practitioner. This site can be helpful https://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/BreastCancerScreeningforWomenatAverageRisk.html.
Many facilities also now offer a breast Tomosynthesis test along with your mammogram, which does make the screening more sensitive to finding breast cancer lesions. This 3-D mammogram may find up to 47% more cancers in women with dense breasts according to a Norway study in 2012. But be aware that it delivers twice as much radiation than traditional mammograms and the breast is compressed for about 48 seconds compared with about 20 seconds for a standard exam. Ouch!!
The question many women are asking is if they should get a breast MRI or when that would be indicated. Investigators performed an observational study in which they used > 2 million images from 6 breast cancer surveillance consortium registries to evaluate biopsy and pathology results after screening mammography and compared that with breast MRI. They looked at women with and without personal histories of breast cancer.
Results showed more high-risk benign (non-cancer) lesions involving biopsies with breast MRI than with mammogram regardless of personal history of breast cancer. Overall, biopsy rates were fivefold higher for MRI than mammography.
Recommendations are that women should not undergo routine breast MRI for cancer surveillance unless they meet certain criteria which includes:
- Strong family history of breast cancer
- Oncogenic hereditary mutation
- Extremely dense breasts
- High-risk lesions such as lobular carcinoma in situ
Of course, discuss recommendations with your practitioner to determine the best screening for you.
Reference: Buist DSM et al. Breast biopsy intensity and findings following breast cancer screening in women with and without a personal history of breast cancer. JAMA Intern Med 2018 Feb 12; [e-pub]. (https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.8549).