Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women after skin cancer. This year, more than 225,000 women in the United States will learn they have breast cancer. Three-fourths of them will be 50 or older, but breast cancer also affects younger women and a handful of men.
Currently the best tool for breast-cancer screening is a mammogram—an X-ray of the breast—coupled with a clinical exam by a health care practitioner. Cancers found on mammograms are usually smaller than cancers that can be felt, and they are less likely to have spread. For some women, early detection may prevent the need to remove the entire breast or receive chemotherapy. And, most importantly, regularly scheduled mammograms can decrease a woman’s chance of dying from breast cancer.
The National Cancer Institute recommends women in their 40s and older have mammograms every one to two years. Women at a higher-than-average risk for breast cancer due to one of the following risk factors may need more frequent mammograms or medical evaluations:
- If you’ve had breast cancer before.
- If you carry a specific genetic change that increases susceptibility to breast cancer.
- If your mother, sister, daughter or two or more close relatives, such as cousins, have had breast cancer.
- If you have a breast condition that may predispose you to breast cancer.
- If you have high breast density.