Breast Cancer Screening: How and When to Begin
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Breast Cancer Screening: How and When to Begin

Published on Dec 21, 2017 and last reviewed on Aug 07, 2023   -  3 min read


Breast cancer is a leading cause of morbidity among females. An early diagnosis will help in better treatment and have a good prognosis. I have tried to provide a small insight into how and when to start screening for breast cancer in females. This article will provide you the necessary information in simplest possible terminologies.

Breast Cancer Screening: How and When to Begin

Importance of Breast Cancer Screening

Every woman needs to know how and when she should get herself screened for breast cancer. As the incidence of breast cancer is gradually increasing in developing as well as the developed world, it is important to look for cancer before there are any obvious symptoms. Screening process help in detecting cancers even at an early stage when there are no obvious manifestations. Thus screening helps in early detection, which further enhances the prognosis and survival rate. Only if the screening test results are in favor of cancer, other diagnostic interventions are advised. Individuals who are more likely to develop breast cancer should strictly undergo periodic screening tests to rule out the presence of cancer. There are a wide variety of breast cancer screening tests.

The Various Methods for Screening Include

  1. Mammography.
  2. Breast self-examination (BSE).
  3. Breast ultrasound.
  4. Breast MRI.
  5. Biopsy.
  6. Thermography.
  7. Tissue sampling.

Q. Which is the best method to screen for breast cancer?

A. Mammography is the best method for screening as it is painless, safe and most accurate. Mammography provides an interior view of the breast, which helps in finding cancerous growths within the breast that are undetectable with palpatory examination. However, mammography is less fruitful in dense breast tissue, as it cannot distinguish dense breast tissues and dense cancerous nodules.

Q. When should I start screening by mammography?

A. It is better to go for a mammography checkup from the age of 40 years. However, even a younger woman can go for it. If the person is having a familial history of breast cancer, or other known risk factor that can enhance the risk of developing breast cancer, mammography is advised even in the early adulthood stage.

Q. How often must I do mammography?

A. For women aged 40 to 44 years, it is recommended to do mammography once in two years. Women aged 45 and above, should get screened every year. The screening should be continued till the age of 75 years. Women with risk factors like certain gene mutation should undergo annual screening mammography to keep track of the cancerous changes in the breast.

Q. Is mammography safe?

A. The procedure is safe and non invasive in nature. There is a very small amount of radiation exposure. But the benefits outweigh the small risk every single time.

Q. What if I do not want to go for mammography?

A. Although mammography is the best screening method, other screening methods like breast ultrasound, breast MRI, and breast self-examination can be done.

Q. When to start mammography screening if there is a family history of breast cancer?

A. It is recommended to start screening 10 years earlier than the age at which your relative was diagnosed. For example, if they were diagnosed with breast cancer at 45, you have to start by 35 years.

Q. Is breast self-examination beneficial?

A. Though studies have shown no real benefit, breast self-examination along with regular checkup by your doctor can be beneficial to detect any changes. Even if initially BSE is confusing for you, it is good to start the practice and familiarize yourself with what is normal.

Q. What is the ideal time for performing breast self-examination?

A. It must ideally be performed one week after the menstrual periods so that there is no tenderness or swelling of the breasts. So that any form of palpable abnormalities can be easily identified. It is better to note down the findings of each examination in a note pad or diary so that comparative analysis can be made out of it.

Q. When to start doing breast self-examination?

A. After the age of 20, it is a good habit to start BSE once a month and record your findings in a diary. It help in identifying even slightest change in the breast.

Q. What changes to look for in BSE?

  • Pain.
  • Lumps.
  • Dimpling.
  • Inward retraction of nipples.
  • Rashes on the outer skin.
  • Asymmetry.
  • Any other changes.

Early screening and detection help in better prognosis and treatment of patients. So, it is a good idea to be aware of what is the ideal method and frequency of screening according to your age and risk.

For more information consult a breast cancer specialist online -->

Last reviewed at:
07 Aug 2023  -  3 min read




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