Breast Cancer Detection

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A Doctor's View on Breast Cancer Detection

Comment by Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

With the use of screening mammograms, more and more breast cancers are being detected at an early and curable stage. Mammograms and breast examinations are the most important screening tests for breast cancer. Mammograms can identify many tumors that are too small to be felt by the patient; up to 90% of breast cancers can be found by mammography.

Guidelines for mammography

Experts are not in full agreement about when a woman should begin having mammograms. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends a first mammogram for all women by age 40, and annual mammograms for women 40 and older. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends against routine mammography for women before 50 years of age. However, women at high risk for breast cancer may need to begin having mammograms earlier in life, and may undergo screening recommended for their individual situation.

Other breast cancer detection methods

One concern about the use of mammography in younger women is that mammograms may not as efficiently detect breast cancer in women with dense breast tissue, which is more likely to be found in young women. The use of ultrasound combined with mammography is often recommended in these cases. Ultrasound is used to supplement traditional mammography in numerous uncertain or difficult cases. In some situations, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is also used to help detect breast cancers.

Breast Cancer Detection Resources

Read patient comments on Breast Cancer - Diagnosis

Doctor written main article on Breast Cancer (Facts, Stages)