Screenings Crucial in Breast Cancer Detection

Breast cancer screening means checking a woman's breasts for cancer before there are signs or symptoms of the disease. Three main tests are used to screen the breasts for cancer. Talk to your doctor about which tests are right for you, and when you should have them.

* Mammogram: The most effective means to detecting breast cancer, a mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. Mammograms can detect breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat and before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms. Having regular mammograms can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer. If you are age 40 years or older, be sure to have a screening mammogram every one to two years.

* Clinical breast exam: A clinical breast exam is an examination by a doctor or nurse, who uses his or her hands to feel for lumps or other changes.

* Breast self-exam: A breast self-exam is when you check your own breasts for lumps, changes in size or shape of the breast, or any other changes in the breasts or underarm (armpit).

Having a clinical breast exam or a breast self-exam does not decrease risk of dying from breast cancer. If you choose to have clinical breast exams and to perform breast self-exams, be sure you also get regular mammograms.

Breast cancer screenings are typically available at clinics, the local hospital or a doctor's office. If you want to be screened for breast cancer, call your doctor's office. They can help you schedule an appointment. Most health insurance companies pay for the cost of breast cancer screening tests.

For more information on cancer prevention and control, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site at www.cdc.gov/cancer.

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