Types of Breast Cancer Screening
SCREENING RECOMMENDATIONS FOR WOMEN WITH AVERAGE RISK
With an average risk for breast cancer, the most important action to take is to know what your breasts feel like. That way, if there are any unusual changes, you can get them checked right away. Report any breast change promptly to your health care provider.
CLINICAL BREAST EXAM (CBE)
About every 3 years in your 20s and 30s and every year from age 40 and over. A CBE is when a healthcare professional checks your breasts for abnormalities.
Every year starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as you’re in good health. Sure, it’s uncomfortable. But it can find breast cancer early so JUST DO IT!
SCREENING RECOMMENDATION FOR WOMEN WITH POTENTIALLY HIGH RISK
MONTHLY BREAST EXAM
Beginning at age 18. Checking your own breasts every month, you get to know what they feel like, so you can recognize anything unusual or abnormal right away.
CLINICAL BREAST EXAM (CBE)
Every 6 months beginning at age 25. Having a healthcare professional examine your breasts for lumps or abnormalities adds another layer of screening that can help detect abnormalities early.
Every year beginning at around age 25. The recommended age for mammograms depends on how early your family members were diagnosed with breast or other cancers, as well as other factors. Talk to your doctor and genetic counselor about when to start taking mammogram action yourself.
MRI every year beginning at age 25. MRI is the latest addition to the breast cancer screening arsenal. If you test positive for BRCA mutations, you should definitely add MRIs to your screening actions. If you have other family/genetic risk factors, it’s not so clear-cut.
- MRIs can find breast cancers that mammograms might miss.
- Together with regular mammograms, MRIs give young women at high risk the best screening coverage available.
- MRIs can result in “false positives.” And lead you to get a biopsy just to find out you didn’t need it. For women with average breast cancer risk, getting an MRI probably isn’t worth the risk of getting a false positive and having unnecessary procedures. But for women with higher-than-average breast cancer risk, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. Because detecting cancer early is the best way to beat it.
- MRIs are expensive. A lot of insurance plans cover MRIs for women with a higher risk of inherited breast cancer but not all. Your doctor’s office and genetic counselor can help support your claim if your insurance company first tells you they won’t pay. And if they refuse MRI coverage, there are organizations that can help.