Breast cancer screening methods
Mammogram - A mammogram is an X-ray picture of the breast. It is done with a special X-ray machine designed just for this purpose. A mammogram can find many cancers before they can be felt. Find your age on the chart below to see which screening methods you should use and how often.
Clinical breast exam - A breast exam by a health care provider should be part of your regular medical checkup. If it is not, ask for it. A clinical breast exam includes a visual examination and carefully feeling the entire breast and underarm area. If you are 40 or older, schedule your mammogram close to the time of your clinical breast exam.
Breast self-exam (BSE) - Learn the normal look and feel of your breasts, and check for changes every month just as your period is ending. If you no longer have periods, do BSE the same day each month. Many women have a pattern of lumpiness in their breasts, which is normal. But if you feel any change or a new lump in your breasts or underarms, ask your doctor to examine the area. (For step-by-step BSE instructions, go to www.komen.org/bse)
Women under age 40 with either a family history of breast cancer or other concerns about their personal risk should talk with their health care provider about when to start getting mammograms and how often to have them.
Now is the best time
Believe it or not, the best time to check for breast cancer is when your breasts feel fine. If you can find cancer early, there is a much better chance for survival. Three basic screening methods are used to look for breast cancer: mammograms, clinical breast exams and breast self-exams. Mammography is the best screening method widely available for finding breast cancer early. However, it is not perfect. Many breast lumps found by these methods turn out not to be cancer, and sometimes a real cancer is missed. But if you do all the methods regularly (based on your age - see chart above), a problem missed one time may be caught the next. Or one method might find a problem that another does not.
Remember, even if you feel healthy now, just being a woman and getting older puts you at risk for breast cancer. Getting checked regularly can put your mind at ease. And finding cancer early could save your life.