With breast cancer being the most common form of cancer for women in the United States, John Muir Health recommends that all women be screened for cancer regularly.
Mammography is still the recommended screening tool as it helps us identify the disease at its earliest stages, which generally leads to a very favorable outcome. Depending on your particular situation, we will recommend what level of screening is best for you and how often you should be screened.
Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer for U.S. women. Please get examined regularly.
Breast Self-Exam – Beginning in your 20s, you should be aware of how your breasts normally look and feel and report any changes to your physician as soon you recognize them, keeping in mind that changes do not necessarily mean you have cancer. For more information about the benefits and limitations of a breast self-exam, and instructions on how and when to perform them, visit the American Cancer Society web site
Clinical Breast Exam – As part of your regular physical exam, our physicians will perform a breast examination and check for enlarged lymph nodes, particularly in the underarm area and above the collarbone. Consistent with American Cancer Society guidelines, we recommend women in their 20s and 30s undergo a clinical breast exam every three years. We advise women 40 and older to have annual clinical breast exams.
Mammography – Since its inception 35 years ago, this low radiation X-ray test used to identify abnormal areas in the breast has helped save numerous lives. For routine screenings, we recommend women begin having annual mammograms at 40, or earlier if you have a strong family history of breast cancer.
John Muir Health offers the most advanced mammography technology – digital mammography – at six of our locations. Using a lower radiation dose than standard mammography, recent studies have shown that digital mammography is more effective for:
- women under 50
- women with dense breasts
- women who are pre- or perimenopausal
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – For women who are identified as high-risk we often use MRI for breast cancer screening, which can be very effective in identifying breast cancer at a very early stage. We have a number of ways of identifying if you are at high-risk, including genetic testing and an evaluation of your family and clinical treatment history.
Genetic Counseling & Testing – If someone in your family was diagnosed with breast cancer before menopause, or you have had at least two family members with either 1) breast and ovarian cancer or 2) the same kind of any cancer, you should speak with a John Muir Health physician about our genetic counseling and testing program.
A genetic counselor will conduct a detailed evaluation of your family history and, if necessary, recommend a genetic blood test to find out if you are at a higher risk for developing hereditary breast cancer, which accounts for 5-10% of all breast cancers. If you are, we will discuss risk prevention options to minimize your chances of getting breast cancer.