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Screening for Breast Cancer

For women of average risk level for breast cancer, preventive measures and screenings fall into two basic divisions, based on age.

  • Women ages 20–39:Monthly breast self-exams are recommended. Any lumps or other changes should be reported immediately to your primary care physician. For details, see the Breast Self-Exam page on the National Breast Cancer Foundation’s Web site.
  • Women ages 40+: An annual mammogram is recommended, as well as continued monthly breast self-exams. 3D mammography which provides additional views of breast tissue at different depths, is also an option for routine annual screenings.

For women with various factors that increase breast cancer risk, or who have dense breast tissue, the primary care physician may recommend additional measures, such as:

  • Starting annual mammograms before age 40
  • Choosing 3D mammography, which is especially helpful in visualizing dense breast tissue, for the annual screening
  • Using other screening methods in addition to the annual mammogram or 3D mammography, such as breast ultrasound or breast MRI

The most important takeaway is that it is crucial, at any age, to keep your primary care physician fully informed about any issues in your personal or family medical history that may affect your breast cancer risk. This will help your physician develop a prevention and screening plan that meets your individual needs.