1 in 10 women ages 40+ have never had a breast cancer screening


Kyra Meister

Alexandria, Va. – One in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime; however, this reality is even more startling when you consider the results of an annual survey from the Prevent Cancer Foundation, which shows 1 in 10 women ages 40 and older have never had a breast cancer screening.

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The news comes from a 2023 report from the Prevent Cancer Foundation that 65% of Americans 21 years of age and older say they are not up to date with one or more routine cancer screenings, including a third of women ages 40 and older who are behind on their breast cancer screening.1 Most people don’t experience signs or symptoms of cancer until it’s in advanced stages, but this and other findings from the Foundation’s first annual Early Detection Survey emphasize the need for education surrounding the importance of early detection. Early detection of cancer can mean less extensive treatment, more treatment options and better chances of survival.

Survey participants cite inability to afford the cost (31%), lack of symptoms (25%)2 and fear of a cancer diagnosis (22%) as top reasons for not being up to date on their breast cancer screening. Additionally, 16% of women who are not up to date on their breast cancer screening cite time as a barrier to staying up to date—saying their schedules are too busy or they cannot take time off from work.

Some of the barriers cited above are a result of social determinants of health (SDOH), or conditions in the environments where people live that impact their health, well-being and quality of life.3 SDOH significantly influence a person’s health care journey and can impact access to insurance or preventive care, like routine cancer screenings. The survey highlights how Hispanics are disproportionately impacted by these factors, with Hispanic participants reporting significantly lower rates for breast cancer screening (46%) than Black participants (61%) and white participants (63%). 

While the incidence rate of breast cancer is highest among white people, studies report higher death rates among Black people, illustrating a need for continued research and action to eliminate disparities and achieve better outcomes across all populations. Breast cancer is highly curable if found in its early stages before it has spread to surrounding areas of the breast. Getting routine screenings as recommended is key to discovering better outcomes for a disease that takes the lives of more than 40,000 people in the U.S. every year.

“We have come a long way in being able to find breast cancers early to achieve better outcomes, but in order to take advantage of improved technologies and treatments, we need women to get breast cancer screenings,” said Jody Hoyos, CEO of the Prevent Cancer Foundation. “By understanding the problem—the real reasons people aren’t going to the doctor—and working to address the issues identified, we can increase screening rates and empower people to stay ahead of cancer.”

People of average risk4 should follow these screening guidelines:

From ages 25 to 39: Three-year check-up 

Talk with your health care provider at least once every three years for risk assessment, risk reduction counseling and a clinical breast exam.

Beginning at age 40: Annual check-up and 2D OR 3D screening mammogram (breast tomosynthesis) 

See your health care provider for risk assessment, risk reduction counseling and a clinical breast exam. Get your screening mammogram annually if you are at average risk. Discuss the benefits and risks of screening tests with your health care provider and talk about which screening method is right for you.

Menopause: Hormone replacement therapy 

Talk with your health care provider about breast cancer risks associated with hormone replacement therapy.

If you are at high risk, talk with your health care provider about beginning annual screening mammograms and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at a younger age and/or getting screened more often.

Information and resources on all cancer types studied in the 2023 Early Detection Survey—including information on relevant screenings—can be found at www.preventcancer.org/betteroutcomes. For more information about breast cancer and ways to reduce your risk, visit www.preventcancer.org/breast.

1The cancer screenings studied in this survey were for breast cancer, cervical cancer, colorectal cancer, oral cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, skin cancer and testicular cancer.

2Routine screening based on guidelines is recommended for people of average risk, even when there are no signs or symptoms of cancer. Symptoms often do not appear until cancer is in advanced stages. 




About the Prevent Cancer Foundation®

The Prevent Cancer Foundation® is the only U.S.-based nonprofit organization solely dedicated to cancer prevention and early detection. Through research, education, outreach and advocacy, we have helped countless people avoid a cancer diagnosis or detect their cancer early enough to be successfully treated. We are driven by a vision of a world where cancer is preventable, detectable and beatable for all 

The Foundation is rising to meet the challenge of reducing cancer deaths by 40% by 2035. To achieve this, we are committed to investing $20 million for innovative technologies to detect cancer early and advance multi-cancer screening, $10 million to expand cancer screening and vaccination access to medically underserved communities, and $10 million to educate the public about screening and vaccination options.

For more information, please visit www.preventcancer.org.