Getting a mammogram is one of the best things a woman can do to protect her health. This simple test can find breast cancers early, when they’re small and have not spread. This is when breast cancer is easier to treat and the chances of survival are higher.
If you’re 40 or older, you should get a mammogram every year. Don’t wait. Call your doctor to schedule one today.
American Cancer Society Recommendations for Early Breast Cancer Detection
The ACS recommends the following guidelines for finding breast cancer early in women without symptoms:
Mammogram: Women age 40 and older should have a mammogram every year and should continue to do so for as long as they are in good health. While mammograms can miss some cancers, they are still a very good way to find breast cancer.
Clinical breast exam: Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam (CBE) as part of a regular exam by a health expert, preferably every 3 years. After age 40, women should have a breast exam by a health expert every year. You can use the exam to learn what your own breasts look and feel like. It might be a good idea to have the CBE shortly before the mammogram.
Breast self-exam (BSE): BSE is an option for women starting in their 20s. Women should be told about the benefits and limitations of BSE. Women should report any changes in how their breasts look or feel to a doctor or nurse right away.
If you decide to do BSE, you should have your doctor or nurse check your method to make sure you are doing it right. If you do BSE on a regular basis, you get to know how your breasts normally look and feel. Then you can more easily notice changes. But it's OK not to do BSE or not do it on a fixed schedule.
The most important thing is to see a doctor right away if you notice any of these changes:
- A lump or swelling
- Skin irritation or dimpling
- Nipple pain or the nipple turning inward
- Redness or scaliness of the nipple or breast skin
- A discharge other than breast milk
But remember that most of the time these breast changes are not cancer.
Women at high risk
Women with a higher risk of breast cancer should talk with a doctor about the best early detection plan for them. This might mean starting mammograms when they are younger, having extra screening tests, or having more frequent exams. There are charts called risk assessment tools. A doctor can use these tools to figure out whether you are at high risk.
Last Medical Review: 08/17/2011
Last Revised: 08/17/2011