Most women begin yearly breast cancer screening at age 40. Earlier screening is important if you’re at high risk of breast cancer – if, for example, you have a mother or sister who has breast cancer, a personal history of breast cancer, or a mutation in one of the breast cancer (BRCA) genes. Discuss your risk factors with your doctor so that you can decide the right time to start your breast cancer screening.
What is it?
Breast cancer screening typically includes a mammogram. During a mammogram, your breasts are compressed between two firm surfaces to spread out the breast tissue. Then an X-ray captures images of your breasts. Many doctors also do a clinical breast exam during a mammogram appointment. Sometimes additional imaging tests, such as breast ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), are recommended.
Your doctor may do a clinical breast exam to detect abnormal skin changes or lumps in your breasts. Mammograms and other imaging techniques can detect calcifications, breast lumps or other suspicious changes when they’re too small to be detected by physical exam.