Regular Breast Cancer Screening Is Critical to Early Detection

« Breast Cancer Overview

Your best chance of surviving breast cancer is early detection through regular breast cancer screening. Screening is looking for cancer before you have any symptoms. If breast cancer is found early, your treatment is more likely to be successful.

Three Common Ways to Screen for Breast Cancer

Women with both average risk and increased risk for breast cancer are encouraged to do all of the following screening:

  • Mammogram: An X-ray of the breast. This test is the best tool doctors have to screen for breast cancer. It can find tumors that are too small to feel.

    An annual mammogram is recommended for women age 40 and older. These screening mammograms can be performed at Fox Chase Cancer Center to ensure high quality and quick access to other breast cancer specialists if you need further assessment.

  • Clinical breast exam (CBE): An exam of the breasts by a doctor or other health professional. The doctor will carefully feel the breasts and under the arms for lumps or anything else that seems unusual.
  • Generally, it is recommended that women have a clinical breast exam every 3 years beginning at age 20 and yearly after age 40.

  • Breast self-exam (BSE): An exam to check your own breasts for lumps or anything else that seems unusual.

    It is generally recommended that women begin doing monthly breast self-exams from age 30. You should do your BSE at the same time each month, preferably at the end of each menstrual period.

If a lump or other abnormality is found using one of these screening methods, you may need to have more tests done to find out if you have cancer. These are called diagnostic tests.

Talk to your doctor about the most appropriate screening and frequency of screening for you based on your breast cancer risk.

Additional Screening and Prevention Options for Those at Increased Risk

For women with family histories of breast or ovarian cancer, and those with mutations of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, there are an increasing number of options for early detection or prevention of breast cancer. In addition to mammography, clinical breast exam and breast self-exam, options include:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Uses a magnet, radio waves and a computer, rather than X-ray, to create images of the breast.

    MRI is not routinely used for screening purposes. However, it may be helpful in evaluating women at increased risk for breast cancer or those with a suspicious finding on physical examination. Screening trials of MRI in women with a high genetic risk of breast cancer have shown it is more sensitive than mammography for finding breast tumors.

  • Risk-reducing surgery: In some cases, women opt to have a prophylactic (preventive) mastectomy to remove breast tissue or a prophylactic oophorectomy, surgery to remove one or both ovaries, (generally after childbearing) to reduce their risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

  • Chemoprevention: A growing area of research, which uses drugs, vitamins or other agents to try to reduce the risk of, or delay the development or recurrence of, cancer. The drug tamoxifen, an antiestrogen, is used to help prevent breast cancer in women with increased risk.

    Fox Chase researchers participated in the national STAR study to compare tamoxifen with another drug, raloxifene (a selective estrogen receptor modulator, or SERM), to see which was more effective in reducing breast cancer risk in women at increased risk of getting the disease. Read more about STAR and the results of this breast cancer prevention trial.

Family Risk Assessment Program

The Risk Assessment Program at Fox Chase Cancer Center provides a detailed evaluation of individual risk for those with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer and for women who have had breast cancer or a biopsy showing benign breast disease such as lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) or atypical hyperplasia.

The program also offers strategies to reduce your risk, including the opportunity to participate in clinical trials studying new approaches for breast cancer detection and risk reduction. Call 1-877-627-9684 for more information.

For more information about breast cancer treatment and prevention at Fox Chase Cancer Center or to make an appointment, call 1-888-FOX CHASE (1-888-369-2427). The breast cancer scheduling department can be reached at 215-728-3001.

« Breast Cancer Overview

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