Early detection of breast cancer is key (and the closest thing to prevention we have), because a tumor is a lot easier to treat if you, your doctor, or a mammogram can catch it while it's still small.
Screenings are for when you have no symptoms of disease but want to be sure something isn't lurking that you haven't spotted yet, says Peter M. Jokich, MD, director of the Rush Breast Imaging Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
Women who don't have any breast cancer symptoms should consider committing to three kinds of routine screenings:
- breast self-exams at home
- clinical breast exams and, each year after you turn 40,
- mammogramsthis is the one that shouldn't be skipped, experts say.
Other breast cancer testsdiagnostic mammograms, ultrasounds, MRIs, and biopsiesare for women with symptoms who, for example, "feel a lump, have redness on the skin of their breast, or have discharge from the nipple," says Dr. Jokich.