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Breast Cancer and Menopause

How Is Breast Cancer Detected and Diagnosed? continued...

The survival rate from breast cancer increases when the disease is detected and treated early. 

Many breast cancer experts recommend beginning routine screening for breast cancer with a mammogram at age 40. Others suggest waiting till age 50. Your doctor may recommend starting earlier than age 40, depending on your individual risk factors.

The purpose of a mammogram is to find abnormalities that are too small to be seen or felt. However, mammograms will not detect all breast cancers, which is why physical breast exams are very important.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that women in their 20s and 30s have a health care provider perform a breast exam every three years and then every year once they turn 40. 

The ACS states that breast self-exams are an option for women starting in their 20s. Breast self-exams have been shown to have only a small role in diagnosing breast cancer.  Women who choose to perform breast self-exams should have their technique reviewed during an exam by a health care provider. Any change in their breasts noted on breast self-exams should be reported promptly to a doctor.

Women who are considered to have an increased risk for breast cancer may benefit from getting a yearly MRI of their breasts along with their yearly mammogram. Three-dimensional mammography may also be an option for some women.   

To find out if you are at increased risk for breast cancer, consult your doctor.



WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on January 23, 2012

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