Screening for Breast Cancer Prevention
For women, breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths. One in eight women will develop breast cancer at some time in their life, most often after the age of 60. However, prevention is possible. Increased awareness, earlier detection and improved treatment have resulted in declining death rates from breast cancer.
One important action a woman can take to prevent breast cancer is to perform regular screening to facilitate early detection of lesions. The most widely used test is mammography, where close-up x-ray pictures are taken of each breast from several angles while it is gently compressed onto a flat surface.
Most cancers can be detected in this way. It is recommended that all women over the age of 40 undergo a yearly mammogram and continue to do so for as long as they are in good health. In the absence of a strong family history, women under this age have lower rates of breast cancer, making screening less valuable.
Women who have a family history or are at a higher risk of breast cancer should consider magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This is a more detailed procedure and can detect cancers at an even earlier stage. While regular self-examination is not a substitute for mammography or other screening tests, it is valuable in detecting some types of breast cancer and it also helps foster awareness.