Breast Cancer Prevention and Early Detection

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The importance of finding breast cancer early

The goal of screening exams for breast cancer is to find cancers before they start to cause symptoms (like a lump that can be felt). Screening refers to tests and exams used to find a disease, such as cancer, in people who do not have any symptoms. Early detection means using an approach that lets breast cancer get diagnosed earlier than otherwise might have occurred.

Breast cancers that are found because they are causing symptoms tend to be larger and are more likely to have already spread beyond the breast. In contrast, breast cancers found during screening exams are more likely to be smaller and still confined to the breast. The size of a breast cancer and how far it has spread are some of the most important factors in predicting the prognosis (outlook) of a woman with this disease.

Most doctors feel that early detection tests for breast cancer save thousands of lives each year, and that many more lives could be saved if even more women and their health care providers took advantage of these tests. Following the American Cancer Society’s guidelines for the early detection of breast cancer improves the chances that breast cancer can be diagnosed at an early stage and treated successfully.


Last Medical Review: 09/10/2014
Last Revised: 09/10/2014