There are several ways to examine the breast to discover lumps.
Breast Self Examination
Women detect most lumps in their breasts themselves by performing breast self exams (BSE). Performing regular self exams will familiarize you with how your breasts feel normally so you will be able to more easily recognize changes.
Sometimes women with a higher risk of developing breast cancer may benefit from more intensive screening. Examples of higher risk would include women who carry a strong genetic predisposition to breast cancer, such as carriers of a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, or women with dense breasts (making mammography difficult), who have a first degree relative with breast cancer. Breast MRI may be offered to such women in addition to annual mammography to decrease the risk of interval breast cancers.
Breast MRI is a very sensitive imaging study and may further help to find cancer at the earliest, most curable stages in these high risk women. Because its findings are less specific, breast MRI may find lesions defined as potentially suspicious but which prove to be benign. Therefore, it is not a screening devise for the “average risk” woman in the general population.
Breast cancer remains the most common cancer in women other than skin cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death. Mammography is the only screening tool which has proven to decrease death from breast cancer. Mammography helps find breast cancer at the earliest, most curable stages. Screening mammograms are therefore recommended yearly for women over the age of 40 in the general population.
After heart disease and lung cancer, breast cancer kills more women than any other disease. This year it will claim about 40,000 lives. The key to surviving breast cancer is early detection and the only way to ensure early detection is to see a doctor regularly and follow guidelines established by the American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute for mammography screening.