Breast Cancer Prevention

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

  • Medical Editor: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

Breast Cancer Prevention: Screening

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.

Introduction to breast cancer prevention

As is the case for most cancers, the exact cause of breast cancer is not clearly known. Furthermore, there is currently no cure for advanced disease, and there is no definitive way of preventing it.

Breast cancer affects men and women. Male breast cancer accounts for about 1% of all breast cancers. Around 230,000 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed each year in women in the U.S.

Our knowledge of how breast cancer develops is expanding rapidly. As a result, new medications are being developed to reduce the risk of breast cancer among those at high risk of contracting this disease. For the majority of women, lifestyle changes, a healthy diet, exercise, and weight reduction can also help reduce the chance of developing breast cancer as well as other cancers and illnesses. To date, the most important strategy in improving survival is still breast cancer screening and early detection. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the United States. The leading cause is lung cancer. One in every eight women in the United States develops breast cancer. The risk is even higher for women with previous breast cancer, those who have first-degree relatives with breast cancer, those with multiple family members with cancer, and those who have inherited "cancer genes."

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/21/2015
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