A Doctor's View on Breast Cancer Detection
Read the Comment by Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Breast cancer detection can be achieved by a variety of methods. Screening for breast cancer can be detected at earlier stages with mammography (mammograms). Other methods of breast cancer detection include:
- ultrasound with mammography,
- breast cancer biopsy, and
- fine needle aspiration of the suspicious breast tissue.
What tests do physicians use to diagnose breast cancer?
Although breast cancer can be diagnosed by the above signs and symptoms, the use of screening mammography has made it possible to detect many of the cancers early before they cause any symptoms.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) has the following recommendations for breast cancer screenings:
Women should have the opportunity to begin annual screening between 40-44 years of age. Women age 45 and older should have a screening mammogram every year until age 54. Women 55 years of age and older should have biennial screening or have the opportunity to continue screening annually. Women should continue screening mammography as long as their overall health is good and they have a life expectancy of 10 years or longer.
Mammograms are a very good screening tool for breast cancer. As in any test, mammograms have limitations and will miss some cancers. An individual's family history and mammogram and breast exam results should be discussed with a health-care provider.
The ACS does not recommend clinical screening exams in women of any age.
Women at high risk (greater than 20% lifetime risk) should get an MRI and a mammogram every year. Women at moderate risk (15%-20%) should talk to their doctor about the benefits and limitations of adding MRI screening to their yearly mammogram.