Breast cancer can occur without exhibiting symptoms. Sometimes it’s found after the patient has experienced symptoms. Regular screening is recommended to ensure the disease is caught early.
Women at high risk should start screening at age 40. Identifying breast cancer early will enable treatment and prevent deaths from the disease. If found early while it’s still localized, breast cancer can be treated with high success rates.
Screening tests can help find breast cancer before it produces symptoms. Breast cancer detected during screening is often small and localized. The tumor size and how far it’s spread are some of the factors that help to predict the prognosis of a breast cancer patient.
The standard screening method for detecting breast cancer early is mammography. Mammograms use low-dose x-rays to check for tumors in the breasts. They can detect breast changes that could indicate breast cancer. Women whose breast cancer is detected early are more likely to be cured.
Digital breast tomosynthesis is a new type of mammogram that uses a 3D technique. The 3D mammography is more accurate and can find smaller lesions in the breasts. The technique has also been studied and found to be effective in diagnosing breast cancer in women with dense breasts.
Regular clinical breast exams and breast self-exams can also help to recognize any abnormalities in the breasts.
The American Cancer Society also recommends that women at high risk for breast cancer should get a mammogram and breast MRI every year, starting at the age of 30. Those at high risk include women with family history, have undergone radiation therapy, have Li-Fraumeni syndrome, and much more.
Other tests for diagnosing breast cancer include ultrasounds and breast biopsies. Imaging tests help doctors to find out if the disease has spread based on the results of your physical exam, symptoms, and tumor size. They include CT scans, chest x-rays, PET scans, and bone scans.
However, not all breast cancer patients will need to undergo these tests. Your doctor will advise you on the best test based on your condition and symptoms.
If you are at elevated risk for breast cancer, you should consider early screening to determine your likelihood of developing the disease.