Screening for Breast Cancer
by Michael Jubinville, MPH
Screening is done to find a health problem early and treat it. Tests are usually given to people who do not have symptoms but who may be at high risk for the health problem.
Ask your doctor when you should be screened and how often. Screening guidelines differ and can be confusing. The goal is to have women to their doctor about these tests.
The chart below is from the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), the American Cancer Society, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
Screening Guidelines for Average Risk
All women should be aware of changes in their breasts, no matter what age. This includes new or disappearing lumps, clear or bloody nipple discharge, dimpling or thickening of the skin, pain, or a feeling of fullness in the underarm area. Not all breast cancers cause symptoms and breast cancer is not the reason for all breast changes. Talk to your doctor about any changes you notice.
Screening Guidelines for High Risk
If you are at high risk for breast cancer, screening tests may be done more often or start at an earlier age.
The American Cancer Society recommends a yearly mammogram with an MRI scan starting at age 30 years for women with:
The USPSTF recommends:
ACOG recommends that high-risk women consider doing regular breast self-exams.
There are 3 main tests. Choose which ones you want to do after you talk it over with your doctor. Each one has risks, harms, and benefits:
Other Imaging Tests
MRI scans may be used to screen high-risk women.
American Cancer Society recommendations for the early detection of breast cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/screening-tests-and-early-detection/american-cancer-society-recommendations-for-the-early-detection-of-breast-cancer.html. Updated October 9, 2017. Accessed March 8, 2019.
Breast cancer: Screening. United States Preventive Services Task Force website. Available at: https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/UpdateSummaryFinal/breast-cancer-screening1. Updated January 2016. Accessed March 8, 2019.
Breast cancer screening. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated July 17, 2018. Accessed March 8, 2019.
1/19/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance: http://www.dynamed.... Lee CH, Dershaw DD, Kopans D, et al. Breast cancer screening with imaging: recommendations from the Society of Breast Imaging and the ACR on the use of mammography, breast MRI, breast ultrasound, and other technologies for the detection of clinically occult breast cancer. J Am Coll Radiol. 2010;7(1):18-27.
7/17/2017 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed...: Committee on Practice Bulletins—Gynecology. Practice bulletin number 179: breast cancer risk assessment and screening in average-risk women. Obstet Gynecol. 2017;130(1):e1-e16.
Last reviewed December 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 3/8/2019
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