Breast cancer screening 101
Cancer screening is recommended for women without breast symptoms. Screening can often detect tumors before they spread, which increases the probability of successful treatment. The Affordable Care Act mandates mammograms at no cost.
- Have clinical breast exams — exams by a health professional — at least once every three years starting in your 20s and 30s.
- Become familiar with how your breasts normally feel so you can detect changes.
- Initiate yearly mammograms and clinical breast exams at the age of 40.
- Get a yearly MRI as well as mammogram if you are at very high risk for breast cancer.
- Establish a screening schedule with your doctor that accommodates your personal risk. Some people may start screening before the age of 40.
Source: American Cancer Society
A closer look
The female breast contains lobes, which are made up of smaller sacs called lobules, in which milk is produced. Thin tubes called ducts carry the milk from the lobules to the nipple when a woman is breastfeeding. The breast also contains vessels that carry clear fluid, or lymph, to small, round organs called lymph nodes.
Most breast cancers begin in the ducts or lobules. Inflammatory breast cancer infiltrates the lymph vessels, causing noticeable changes to the breast.
When breast cancer spreads, it travels through the lymph nodes to other organs — usually the bones, liver, lungs and brain.
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