The earlier breast cancer is diagnosed, the better the chances for cure. All women therefore are encouraged to undergo regular screening for breast cancer. The recommended screening strategies vary by age:
All ages: Although most lumps are not cancerous, promptly notify your doctor if you find any new lump. Also look for following changes in your breast: a clear or bloody discharge from the nipple; scaling or sores on the skin of the breast or the nipple; one nipple that inverts; dimpling on the breast skin; a change in the contour of one breast compared to the other.
Ages 20 to 39: Women in this age group should have their doctor perform a clinical breast examination at least once every three years.
Ages 40 to 49: Many doctors recommend a clinical breast exam and mammography every one to two years. Women in this age group should be informed that false positive findings on mammograms are common. This means that spots seen on mammograms in younger women will often require further testing and potentially a biopsy, even though most will be benign.
Ages 50 and older: Women in this age group should have a clinical breast examination by a doctor and a mammogram yearly, or at least once every two years. Mammograms can detect breast cancer two to five years before a tumor becomes large enough to be felt as a lump.