Breast Cancer Screening

Breast cancer is a concern of adult women.  About one out of every eleven women will develop breast cancer sometime in their lifetime.  Breast cancer is the second leading cancer in women.  The risk of breast cancer increases with age.  Breast cancer risk also increases with a history of breast cancer in a close relative or nulliparity (never having had a baby).

The purpose of breast cancer screening is to try to detect cancer at an early stage when the chance of treatment success is the greatest.  Early detection and removal of the abnormal tissue provides the best chance for long term survival.

There are several methods to detect breast cancer.  The exact schedule for testing varies somewhat depending on which guidelines one follows.  Breast self examination is a safe, inexpensive, and readily available technique.  A woman may detect a lump and bring it to the attention of her doctor.  Menstruating women are advised to examine soon after menses on a monthly basis for the most reliable exam.  Some studies have suggested that breast self examination is not an effective screening method.  However, most providers do advise it.

An examination by your provider is advised at each routine exam every one to two years.  A mammogram, which is a low dose x-ray exam of the breast, is suggested in addition to a breast exam in certain age groups.  The exam and mammogram are both advised at certain ages since some palpable lumps may not show on a mammogram, and some spots that show on a mammogram may not be palpable.  Most authorities advise a mammogram every one to two years.  Some advise starting at age 40 and some at age 50.

The exam and testing schedule that is appropriate for you should be discussed with your provider.