The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force says the decision to start breast cancer screening before age 50 should be an individual decision, and adds if women begin screening earlier, there’s more of a benefit than harm with screening once every two years between ages 40 and 49.

Now, researchers from the University of Ottawa in Canada say breast cancer screening before age 50 helps reduce advanced breast cancer. The study, published in Current Oncology, found less stage 2, 3 and 4 breast cancer in women ages 40-49 and less stage 2 and 3 breast cancer in women ages 50-59 who began screening in their 40s.

“Women who are not screened in their 40s are presenting with later stage breast cancer in their 50s. This means more intensive treatment and a worse prognosis for these women than if their cancers were diagnosed at an earlier stage,” said Dr. Anna Wilkinson, associate professor in the Faculty of Medicine at uOttawa. Survival rates are affected by cancer stage at diagnoses. The five-year survival rate for stage 1 breast cancer is 99.8% compared to 23.2% for cancers diagnosed at stage 4.

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The Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) promotes the health of women and newborns.

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