Regular exams and mammograms best defense for breast cancer
Screening is the best way to detect breast cancer in the very early stages when it is easier to treat. Regular screening—that is, examination of your breasts when you have no signs or symptoms of breast cancer—is also a good way to keep track of and recognize any changes, such as variation in size, shape or density of your breasts.
Doing a regular self-exam at home is a good habit to get into, but you should also plan for a clinical breast exam performed by your doctor, usually your OB/GYN, who is specially trained in what to look for, such as breast lumps and other abnormalities.
While there is some disagreement regarding what age you should begin and how often to get a regular mammogram, a technology that involves taking X-ray images of the tissues and glands inside your breast, at Main Line Health we recommend all women begin annual screening at age 40. If you are at high-risk for breast cancer, such as you have tested positive for an abnormal breast cancer gene, or you have a close family member with breast cancer, you should discuss your breast cancer screening plan with your doctor. Additional screening studies or starting screening earlier in life may be beneficial.
If your mammogram shows an abnormality, your doctor may order additional testing, such as a biopsy, MRI, blood tests, or other diagnostic procedures. Keep in mind, however, that a breast abnormality does not indicate cancer.