Cancer Services Program

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Local Cancer Screening Programs

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Bureau of Chronic Disease Control
New York State Department of Health
150 Broadway, Suite 350
Albany, NY 12204-0678

Breast Cancer Screening Recommendations

Breast cancer screening means checking the breasts for cancer before there are signs or symptoms of sickness. Three main tests are used to screen the breasts for cancer. Talk to your health care provider about which tests are right for you, and when you should have them.

  • Mammogram - A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray of the breast. Health care providers use a mammogram to look for early signs of breast cancer. Women ages 50 to 74 years old should have a screening mammogram every two years. Women ages 40–49 years old are encouraged to talk to their health care providers about when and how often they should have screening mammograms. A woman who has a high risk for breast cancer, as determined by a health care provider, may need to begin screening earlier.
    Regular mammograms are the best test health care providers have to find breast cancer early. Having regular mammograms can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer. Recommendations for when women should begin screening, and how often women should be screened, may differ among organizations that publish screening recommendations. Women should be aware of their own risk for breast cancer and decide, with a health care provider, when and how to be screened for breast cancer.1
  • Clinical breast exam - A clinical breast exam is an examination by a health care provider, who uses his or her hands to feel for lumps or other changes in the breast or underarm (armpit).
  • Breast self-exam - A breast self-exam is when women check their own breasts for lumps, changes in size or shape of the breast, or any other changes in the breasts or underarm.

At this time, guidelines suggest that the best way to find breast cancer is with a mammogram. Clinical breast exams or self-exams alone are not enough to detect breast cancer. Women who choose to have clinical breast exams and to perform breast self-exams should also get regular mammograms.2

1United States Preventive Services Task Force.

2Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.