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Charles Padgett, MD, chief of medical oncology, meets with a patient. By scheduling routine examinations and consulting with your doctor, you can help decrease your risk of cancer or detect early warning signs.

A key component in the battle against breast cancer is early detection. While it cannot be prevented, the earlier breast cancer is found, the greater the chances for effective treatment. When found in its early stages, breast cancer is very treatable; in fact, the five-year survival rate for women with Stage 1 breast cancer is 95 percent.

By practicing monthly breast self-examination, by visiting your doctor annually for a check-up, and by having a mammogram, you can take an active role in your breast health care.

  • Breast Self-Examination

Examine your breasts every month, checking for changes or lumps that are unfamiliar to you. Before menopause, the best time to do the exam is two weeks after the start of your monthly period. After menopause, choose a day and examine on that day each month.

  • Clinical Breast Exam

A breast exam performed by a trained medical professional should be included in your annual check-up.

  • Mammograms

The American Cancer Society recommends routine yearly mammograms for women age 40 and older. If you have a family history of breast cancer, your physician may recommend an annual mammogram starting earlier than age 40.

Your MedStar Health doctor will order a baseline mammogram. This test will help your physician with future mammograms to detect any abnormalities. You can help yourself to reduce the fear and anxiety by keeping your routine scheduled appointments.

Genetic Screening

MedStar Health offers genetic screenings for breast cancer, including genetic counseling and blood tests, which map your genetic risk and help determine your chance for developing breast cancer caused by genetic mutations that are passed from generation to generation.

This kind of screening (also called a risk assessment) is directed by a genetic counselor, who will take a full family medical history. A BRCA-gene-mutation blood test may be included. Once the results arrive, your genetic counselor will help you understand the results and direct toward next steps.

It is important to remember that even if you are a carrier of the gene, it does not mean with certainty that you will develop breast cancer.

Screening Guidelines

MedStar Health doctors and the American Cancer Society recommend different breast cancer screening guidelines based on the following risk categories:

Average Risk

  • Age 20 to 34
    • Monthly breast self-examination
    • Breast examination by a trained professional every three years
  • Age 35 to 39
    • Monthly breast self-examination
    • Breast examination by a trained professional every three years
  • Age 40 and over
    • Monthly breast self-examination
    • Annual breast examination by a trained professional
    • Annual mammogram

Average risk may increase based on:

  • Personal history of breast abnormalities
  • Current age
  • Breast cancer history of close relatives
  • Whether a woman has had a breast biopsy
  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Race

High-risk: Family history of breast cancer (at least one first-degree relative—parent or sibling—who has had breast cancer)

  • Women should be aware of any changes in their breasts. Monthly breast self-examination beginning at 20 years old is optional, but highly recommended.
  • Clinical breast examination every six months starting 10 years before the age at which the youngest family member was diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • Annual mammography starting 10 years before the age of the youngest family member with breast cancer (but no earlier than 25 and no later than 40).
  • Consider annual MRI (consult with your physician).

High-risk: Diagnosis of benign breast disease or breast cancer confined to the milk duct or lobule

  • Women should be aware of any changes in their breasts. Monthly breast self-examination beginning at 20 years old is optional, but highly recommended.
  • Clinical breast examination every six months beginning at time of diagnosis.
  • Annual mammography beginning at the time of diagnosis.
  • Consider annual MRI (consult with your physician).

Learn more about options for high-risk women here.

Reducing your Risk

Although breast cancer cannot be prevented, you can help reduce your risk by following some healthy guidelines, including

  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Limit your intake of alcohol to no more than one drink per day

It is important to note, however, a great deal is still unknown about breast cancer. Some women who have risk factors never develop breast cancer and most women who develop the disease have no known risk factors.

Learn More

Watch the videos below to see experts from the MedStar Health Cancer Network explain genetic risks for breast cancer and the importance of mammograms. 

Call Us Today

To find a cancer care specialist:

443-444-4100

Location Information

MedStar Franklin Square Cancer Center at Loch Raven Campus
(Located on the campus of MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital)
5601 Loch Raven Blvd.
Russell Morgan Building, Suite 103
Baltimore, MD 21239

Click here for directions.

Breast Cancer Specialists

Learn More about Breast Cancer

Watch our experts from the MedStar Health Cancer Network explain risk factors, common myths and treatment options available for patients.