Breast cancer is now the most common cancer in the world. In fact, 12% of all new cancer cases in 2021 will be breast cancer. As a result, chances are you know someone who has faced this terrible disease. And it is likely you have wondered about breast cancer screening.
Currently, there are several recommendations about breast cancer screening. There are benefits to screening and early detection, but there are also potential problems. Your doctor should help you decide which tests you need based on your history and risk. For high-risk men and women with a family history of cancer, BRCA genetic testing is invaluable.
Breast cancer screening is a great way to take charge of your health. Here's what you need to know about breast cancer screening.
According to the National Cancer Institute, screening means looking for the disease before there are any signs. Hence, the best time to get checked is before you have symptoms.
Screening is looking for abnormalities. It may find cancer at an early stage. Because of advanced detection, doctors can more easily treat the disease. Patients also have better odds at survival. Each type of cancer has unique guidelines for screening.
Overall, current guidelines and recommendations say that most women should have a mammogram to detect tissue changes beginning at age 40.
Men are also affected by breast cancer. However, most guidelines do not include them in the recommendations. A doctor can give male patients personalized guidelines for screening.
Here are the most current routine recommendations for women starting at age 40.
|Women Age 40-49
|Women Age 50-74
|US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF)
|Individualized to the patient
|Digital mammogram every 2 years
|American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)
|Offer annual mammogram
|Mammogram every 1-2 years until age 55, then every 2 years
|National Cancer Institute (NCI)
|Mammogram every 1-2 years
|Mammogram every 1-2 years
|American Cancer Society
|Offer annual mammogram until age 45, then mammogram every year
|Mammogram every year age 50-55, then every two years after age 55
|American College of Radiology (ACR)
Some men and women worry about breast cancer because they have a family history of cancer.
Women with a personal or family history of some cancers could have changes in their genes. These mutations are known as BReast CAncer gene 1 (BRCA1) or BReast CAncer gene 2 (BRCA2) changes. They may mean a higher cancer risk.
High-risk patients should see a doctor or specialist. They will need a risk assessment, genetic counseling, and in some cases, lab testing. Mutations in the BRCA1/2 genes may lead to:
Genetic testing for BRCA1/2 requires a special blood test that your doctor can order. The doctor can explain the details. They can also answer questions you might have.
According to the National Cancer Institute, many women with ovarian and breast cancers are not receiving these genetic tests, even though they have become inexpensive and easily accessible.
Now with telemedicine, it is easier than ever to get this valuable testing done. An online provider such as a virtual gynecologist or virtual physician can tell you if you need it and when or how to get it.
My Virtual Physician offers consultations about this important BRCA gene testing. For little or no out-of-pocket cost, they can arrange for you to have your blood drawn. They make it easy. They work with many local LabCorp or Quest outpatient testing centers who can provide this service for you.
Like much in healthcare, tests may not be “one risk fits all.” That is why you should talk to your doctor about what is best for you. He or she will consider factors such as lifestyle, family history, and other health concerns. Then they can help you decide what to do.
Your doctor can recommend one of these methods below. If you do not have a doctor, a virtual doctor online can be a great place to start.
The most common test for breast cancer is called mammography. It is ordered by a doctor. Mammograms look for early changes in the tissue that could be dangerous.
A mammogram is a special type of X-ray that shows the breast tissue. Sometimes, doctors can see lumps on the images that they cannot feel.
Women who have a high risk of cancer or have dense breast tissue may require magnetic resonance imaging.
The MRI test is more sensitive and can detect finer irregularities. MRI images also give a clearer picture of the breast tissue. Unfortunately, this screening method is much more expensive and therefore is not used for routine exams.
Breast cancer testing is an active area in clinical research. Other methods include:
Physicians can explain the options to patients. And they can help them make informed choices about each type of screening.
Doctors can help guide a patient to the best choice. Physicians also tell their patients about risks that they need to consider.
Your doctor should tell you when to get screened for breast cancer. Talking to a board-certified physician about the right time for you to have a cancer screening may prevent problems.
Specialists caution patients that there are risks involved with all medical tests, including cancer screening. Some of them include:
This is why you should talk to your doctor when you are thinking about breast cancer screening.
My Virtual Physician offers a full line of virtual physician services. To talk with one of our board-certified physicians, click to book now. Our caring experts can talk with you about a screening plan that is best for you.
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Fewer Women with Ovarian, Breast Cancer Undergo Genetic Testing than Expected. National Cancer Institute. Apr 9, 2019. https://www.cancer.gov/news-events/cancer-currents-blog/2019/ovarian-breast-cancer-testing-inherited-genetic-mutations
BRCA1 and BRCA2 Testing. BreastCancer.org. Sep 21, 2020.https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/diagnosis/brca
Pediconi, F., & Galati, F. (2020). Breast cancer screening programs: does one risk fit all?. Quantitative imaging in medicine and surgery, 10(4), 886–890. https://doi.org/10.21037/qims.2020.03.14