WSRS BITF Breast Density Notification Guide 2018

The Importance of Screening Mammography:

Research shows that getting a mammogram every year starting at 40, as recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and National Comprehensive Cancer Network, will save the most lives from breast cancer. (1) The Unites States Preventive Services Task Force, American Cancer Society and American College of Radiology all agree on this point. (2) Mortality from breast cancer has decreased by 43% in the United States since mammography became a widespread screening tool in the late 1980’s. (3)

Start Screening at 40:

While any death from breast cancer is difficult, the deaths of women in their 40s, who are often otherwise healthy and have many vibrant years ahead, can be especially heartbreaking. One out of six breast cancers is diagnosed in women 40-49. If screening mammography is delayed until the age of 50, approximately 6500 women in the United States will die unnecessarily each year from breast cancer. (4) The decision to attend screening is a personal one. The policy that saves the most lives and allows women to choose if they want to participate is to recommend screening mammograms every year starting at 40.

Why Was This Website Created in 2018:

We recognize that mammography is not perfect. In particular, women with normal dense breast tissue have a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer and it is more difficult to detect those cancers on mammograms. The Washington State legislature passed a bill regarding “Breast Health Information – Mammography” for patients. The new law becomes effective January 1, 2019 and requires mammography facilities to include specific language in the letters that are sent directly to patients with their results. The goal of the legislation is to inform patients if they have dense breast tissue so they have the opportunity to make personal decisions about their health care.


1. Mandelblatt JS, Stout NK, Schechter CB, van den Broek JJ, Miglioretti DL, Krapcho M, et al. Collaborative Modeling of the Benefits and Harms Associated With Different U.S. Breast Cancer Screening Strategies. Ann Intern Med. [Epub ahead of print 12 January 2016] doi:10.7326/M15-1536 Table 1

2. Oeffinger KC et al. Breast Cancer Screening for Women at Average Risk 2015 Guideline Update From the American Cancer Society JAMA. 2015;314(15):1599-1614.

3. American Cancer Society. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, Inc.; 2015.

4. R. Edward Hendrick and Mark A. Helvie. United States Preventive Services Task Force Screening Mammography Recommendations: Science Ignored American Journal of Roentgenology 2011 196:2, W112-W116

Content on this page was prepared by:

Peter R Eby, MD, FACR, FSBI
Virginia Mason Medical Center
Seattle, WA

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