What is a breast cancer screening?

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women and will affect one in every eight women in their lifetime. A breast cancer screening tests for signs of breast cancer before your symptoms appear.

Early detection is key to successfully treating breast cancer. If caught early, the survival rate for breast cancer is high.

What are the breast cancer screening tests?

There are three types of breast cancer screening tests including:

Clinical breast exam
A clinical breast exam is a test performed during an annual check-up. During a clinical breast exam, your provider will carefully examine your breasts for lumps or other abnormalities. If your doctor finds a lump in your breast, he or she will refer you to a breast imaging specialist for follow-up tests such as a diagnostic mammogram and/or a breast ultrasound.

A mammogram, an X-ray of the breasts, is the most effective way of detecting breast cancer early. During a mammogram, your breast is flattened and compressed between plates while a radiology technologist takes a picture.

Breast MRI
A breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can produce detailed images of the breasts using radio waves and is used to screen for breast cancer in high-risk women.

Breast MRI results can be positive even when the patient does not have cancer, so this test is not used on women who are not high-risk.

Who should have breast cancer screenings and how often?

Women between the ages of 50 and 74 who have not had abnormal previous results should get a mammogram every two years.

Women between 40 and 49 years old should discuss the frequency and timing of their first mammogram with their doctor. During this discussion, your provider will outline the benefits and risks associated with breast cancer screenings

What happens after the screening?

You should receive your results within a week of your mammogram. If you haven’t received results back within a week, contact your provider. The results will be shared with the physician who requested the test. If results are normal, follow your doctor’s recommendation on when to schedule your next mammogram. If your results are abnormal, your doctor will order additional testing such as diagnostic mammography or breast ultrasound.

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