Which Tests Are Right For You?

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Harvard Medical School
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Which Tests Are Right For You?

Breast Cancer
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Basics
Which Tests Are Right For You?
Which Tests Are Right For You?
htmBreastTests
Here's a primer to help you determine which breast cancer tests are best for you based on your age.
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InteliHealth
2009-11-23
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Harvard Medical School
2011-11-23

Harvard Medical School

Which Tests Are Right For You?

Age

Breast Exam By Doctor

Mammogram

Breast Self-Exam

Under 40
Talk to your doctor about whether breast exams are necessary.

Some experts recommend yearly breast exams for all women, while others feel that regular breast exams can and should wait until age 40.

Most experts recommend against regular mammograms for young women, unless they are at high risk of breast cancer.

Your doctor may recommend a mammogram if he or she is concerned about a lump or other breast problem.

For many years, doctors have recommended that all women examine their own breasts each month to help detect the earliest signs of cancer.

However, when large groups of women who do or don't do regular breast self-exams are compared, the two groups have an almost equal risk of dying from breast cancer. Adding breast self-exams to doctor exams and mammograms doesn't help breast cancer to be found much more quickly.

In 2003, the American Cancer Society changed its guidelines to say that "it is acceptable for women to choose not to do breast self-exams or to do it occasionally."

Talk to your doctor about whether breast self-exams make sense for you.

40-49
Talk to your doctor. Prior formal recommendation to have this done yearly is being questioned. Many doctors still advise yearly exams.
Talk to your doctor. There is disagreement regarding the need for routine mammography in women who are not at high risk. Many doctors still advise screening mammography every 1-2 years.
50-75
Every 1-2 years
Over 75
Formal recommendations advise against routine screening for women 75 and older. However, some experts believe that breast-cancer screening should continue in older women who are otherwise healthy, while others feel it is reasonable to stop at a certain point.

For example, women who have a limited life expectancy due to their age or health problems may not see any benefit from screening.

If you are over 75, talk with your doctor about when it may make sense to stop screening for breast cancer.

 
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Last updated September 26, 2013


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