July 01, 2018

Breast cancer screening

Answering questions

It's time for your mammogram to screen for breast cancer. You've been doing this for so many years that it's become your annual routine. But does it need to be? Could you get by with a mammogram every two years? Are you old enough to stop having them?

Breast cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related death in women in the United States. Most women recognize the importance of screening to catch breast cancer in its earliest stages when treatment is often simpler and more effective. However, questions such as these and many others often cloud the process. Here, Mayo Clinic breast cancer experts answer some common questions:

Q: Should I examine my own breasts?

A: This is an area of debate, but Mayo experts feel that breast awareness is important. If new breast changes are noted, seek prompt evaluation by your doctor. Changes may include:

  • A new or changing lump
  • New or unusual breast pain
  • Skin changes such as dimpling or retraction on the breast surface or a change in skin texture, especially if it resembles the texture of an orange peel
  • Swelling, firmness, redness, soreness or warmth in the breast
  • Nipple changes such as development of a rash or discharge — or new retraction of the nipple into the breast

Q: At what age should women begin having screening mammograms?

A: For women at average risk, Mayo recommends an annual mammogram or 3D mammogram beginning at 40. Individualized changes can...