Breast Cancer Screening
Regular breast cancer screening is an important part of a woman’s wellness. The goal of screening is to find cancer so it can be treated. In many cases, the earlier cancer is found, the easier it is to treat.
There are different types of breast cancer screening. Which type you have depends on your age, your risk factors, and personal choice. It’s important to talk with your healthcare provider about which types of screening are best for you.
Types of Breast Cancer Screening
A clinical breast exam is done in your healthcare provider’s office or other healthcare setting. Your healthcare provider will move his or her hands around and over your breasts. This will be done while you are lying down, and when you are sitting up or standing. You may be asked to raise and lower your arms. This exam can help find lumps in breast tissue. Your healthcare provider will also be looking for dimpling or other skin changes.
A mammogram is a special x-ray of the breasts. It’s done with a machine that presses each breast between plates, and then takes an X-ray picture using a small amount of radiation. This can show lumps in tissue that are too small to be felt.
An ultrasound may be done if a spot is found on your mammogram and your provider wants more information. During the test, a clear gel is put on the breast. The ultrasound technician presses a flat wand into and around the skin over the breast. The wand puts out sound waves, which creates a picture on a computer screen.
An M-R-I is a type of imaging test done with magnets and a computer. It can show different kinds of tissue that mammograms and ultrasound can’t. In some cases, such as in women with high risk of breast cancer, an M-R-I may be used to view breast tissue. An MRI may be done if a lump is found with another type of test.
Talk with your healthcare provider about the type of screening you may need. He or she will also talk with you about how often you should be screened.
When to Get a Breast Exam
Women age 19 or older may be advised to have a clinical breast exam every 1 to 3 years. Mammograms are recommended for older women. Talk with your healthcare provider if you are age 40 or older about how often you should have a mammogram. Women at higher risk of breast cancer may need to be screened earlier and more often. Tell your healthcare provider about any family history of breast cancer, including if you have had breast cancer before.
After Your Breast Exam
After your breast cancer screening, your healthcare provider will talk with you about the results. If something unusual is found, your provider may want to do more tests.
These may include another imaging test, such as a diagnostic mammogram. This takes pictures from more angles to get a more complete view of the breast tissue.
You may also have a biopsy, which is a procedure to take a small sample of tissue from the breast.
Things to Remember
- Tell your healthcare provider about any family or personal history of breast cancer.
- Make regular screening appointments as often as advised by your healthcare provider.
Breast cancer screening should be a regular part of every woman’s health routine.
What We Have Learned
- A clinical breast exam is something you can do at home. True or false?
This is False. A clinical breast exam is done by a healthcare provider in an office or other healthcare setting.
- A mammogram is the same as an ultrasound. True or false?
This is False. A mammogram is a type of x-ray and uses radiation. An ultrasound uses sound waves and a computer to make an image.
- Women at higher risk of breast cancer may need to be screened earlier and more often. True or false?
This is True. Women with a family history or personal history of breast cancer may need to be screened more often than other women.