WHO position paper on mammography screening


Publication details

Number of pages: 78
Languages: English
ISBN: 978 92 4 150793 6



Every year, breast cancer kills more than 500,000 women around the world. In resource-poor settings, a majority of women with breast cancer are diagnosed at an advanced stage of disease; their five-year survival rates are low, ranging from 10-40%. In settings where early detection and basic treatment are available and accessible, the five-year survival rate for early localized breast cancer exceeds 80%.

Breast cancer can be detected early through two strategies: early diagnosis and screening.

  • Early diagnosis is based on improved public and professional awareness of signs and symptoms associated with cancer; it entails recognizing possible warning signs of cancer and taking prompt action.
  • Screening involves the systematic use of testing, such as mammography, across an asymptomatic population to detect and treat cancer or pre-cancers.

The new WHO position paper examines the balance of benefits and harms in offering mammography screening to women after the age of 40 in a variety of settings.