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Breast Cancer Screening (PDQ®): Screening - Patient Information [NCI] - Risks of Breast Cancer Screening

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There may be pain or discomfort during a mammogram.

During a mammogram, the breast is placed between 2 plates that are pressed together. Pressing the breast helps to get a better x-ray of the breast. Some women have pain or discomfort during a mammogram.

The risks and benefits of screening for breast cancer may be different in different age groups.

The benefits of breast cancer screening may vary among age groups:

  • In women who are expected to live 5 years or fewer, finding and treating early stage breast cancer may reduce their quality of life without helping them live longer.
  • As with other women, in women older than 65 years, the results of a screening test may lead to more diagnostic tests and anxiety while waiting for the test results. Also, the breast cancers found are usually not life-threatening.
  • In women in their 80s and 90s, decisions about screening should depend on the patient's health and the possible effect on quality of life.
  • It has not been shown that women with an average risk of developing breast cancer benefit from starting screening mammography before age 40.

Women who have had radiation treatment to the chest, especially at a young age, are advised to have routine breast cancer screening. Yearly MRI screening may begin 8 years after treatment or by age 25 years, whichever is later. The benefits and risks of mammograms and MRIs for these women have not been studied.

There is no information on the benefits or risks of breast cancer screening in men.

No matter how old you are, if you have risk factors for breast cancer you should ask for medical advice about when to begin having breast cancer screening tests and how often to have them.

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WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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