The type and frequency of
breast cancer screening that is best for you changes
as you age.
- Ages 18 to 39: Some experts recommend that
women have a
clinical breast exam every 3 years, starting at age
20. Talk with your doctor about how often you should have a breast exam. If you
have a high risk for developing breast cancer, talk to your doctor about when to
begin having routine
mammograms and other screening tests, such as
magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
- Ages 40 and
older: It is important for you to discuss with your doctor the medical evidence about mammograms before you decide when to start having mammograms and how often to have them. For woman at average risk:
- The American Cancer Society and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that most women begin screening at age 40 and then have a mammogram every year.
- The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that most women begin screening at age 50, and then have a mammogram every 2 years until age 74.
- The risk of breast cancer increases with age, and the age at which testing no longer helps reduce death from breast cancer is not known. If you are 75 or older, talk to your doctor about mammography as a regular part of your health care plan.
You can find out your personal risk level at
Early detection is an important factor in the success of breast
cancer treatment. The earlier breast cancer is found, the more easily and
successfully it can be treated. The two methods commonly used for early
- Mammogram. A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast that can often find tumors that are too small for you or your doctor to feel.
- Clinical breast exam (CBE). During a clinical breast exam, your doctor will carefully feel your breasts and under your arms to check for lumps or other unusual changes. Talk to your doctor about whether to have a clinical breast exam.
Make sure you know what your breasts normally
look and feel like. When you know what is normal for you, you are better able
to notice changes. Tell your doctor right away if you notice any changes in
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the breast may be used as a screening test
for women who have a high risk of breast cancer. This includes women
who test positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, or have two or more close family
members who have had breast cancer before age 50. MRI may also be used to
evaluate the opposite breast in women diagnosed with breast cancer.
For more information, see the topic Breast Cancer.
- Breast Cancer Screening: When Should I Start Having Mammograms?