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Breast Cancer Screening and Detection

When it comes to breast cancer screening and detection, experts and advocacy groups don't agree on when women should start getting regular breast cancer screening mammograms. Without delving into the controversy, consider these facts:

  1. The lifetime risk (to age 85) of a woman developing breast cancer in 1940 was 5% or one in 20; the risk is now 13.4%, or greater than one in 8.
  2. It is estimated that in 2014, there will be almost 233,000 new cases of breast cancer and roughly 40,000 deaths from the disease.
  3. Women who undergo breast cancer screening mammograms have demonstrated significantly reduced deaths from the disease.
  4. The effectiveness of any breast cancer screening program will depend on how often women are screened, compliance with screening recommendations, and the quality of the screening test.

 

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Recommendations for Breast Cancer Screening

The following are recommendations for breast cancer screening:

  • Breast exam by a health care provider every three years starting at age 20; annual clinical breast exam starting at age 40.
  • Annual screening mammography starting at age 40 or 50. Breast cancer experts don't all agree. When you need a mammogram is a personal decision between you and your doctor.
  • Women in high-risk categories should have screening mammograms every year and typically start at an earlier age. Ultrasound screening can also be given in addition to mammograms. Breast MRI may be used if a woman has a lifetime risk of breast cancer greater than 20%. Discuss the best approach with your doctor.   

 

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Arnold Wax, MD on June 26, 2012
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