The best way to fight breast cancer is to have an early detection plan that helps you detect the disease in its early stages. Early detection significantly increases your chances of surviving breast cancer. There are steps you can take to detect breast cancer early when it is most treatable. Some experts recommend an early detection plan to help remind you to schedule mammograms, clinical breast exams (CBEs) and self breast exams.
The most important screening test for breast cancer is the mammogram. A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. It can detect breast cancer up to two years before the tumor can be felt by you or your doctor. Women age 40 or older who are at average risk of breast cancer should have a mammogram once a year. Women at high risk should have yearly mammograms along with an MRI starting at age 30.
Here are some tips for a better mammogram:
• Look for an FDA certificate. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issues a certificate to all mammography centers that meet high professional standards of safety and quality
• Get regular mammograms. Work with your doctor to set up a schedule that is right for your age and situation
• Follow up on your test results. Don’t assume your results were normal. Call your doctor’s office to confirm
• Try to have your mammogram at the same mammography center each year. This way, your results can be compared from year to year
During a clinical breast exam, your doctor examines your breasts and the surrounding area for any possible signs of breast cancer. Your doctor checks for changes in the size or shape of your breasts, skin changes, including rashes, dimpling or redness, other abnormal changes, such as lumps or discharge from the nipple. Women in their 20s or 30s should have a CBE about every three years as part of a general health exam. Women over 40 should have a CBE once a year.
It is a good idea to get in the habit of doing monthly self-exams starting at age 20. Examining yourself on a regular basis lets you become familiar with your breasts so you will notice any changes that may occur.