Cancer screening is the process of looking for a cancer before signs or symptoms develop. Screening can be a useful preemptive measure in women at high risk for developing breast cancer, as cancer is easiest to treat while it is still small and has not spread to other parts of the body.
Not all types of cancer have a screening procedure. Breast cancer screening is recommended for women at high risk as well as women at average risk between the ages of 50 and 74.
There are three tests that may be used to screen for breast cancer.
Breast cancer screening tests:
The frequency and type of screening test varies depending on a woman’s age and relative level of risk.
Whether breast cancer screening is right for an individual depends on many different factors. Women at higher risk, such as women who have family members with breast cancer, may benefit the most from early and regular screening. A woman at average risk may not have any additional benefit from early screening, and may also potential overdiagnosis and unnecessary testing.
The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all women between the ages of 50 and 74 should have a mammography every other year. Women between the ages of 40 and 49 are recommended to make individual decisions about breast cancer screening in consultation with a doctor.
The American Cancer Society recommends that women at higher risk should have a mammogram every year starting at age 30 or as advised by a doctor.
Men should only seek screening for breast cancer if they have an inherited gene mutation or a family history of breast cancer.
Self-screening is a home-based procedure that is no longer recommended. However, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the way your breasts normally feel. Breast awareness will help you identify when an unexpected change or new lump has occurred.
Speak to your doctor about any changes in your breasts. The earlier that breast cancer is found and diagnosed, the sooner it can be treated.