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Breast Cancer Prevention and Screening

Breast Cancer Screening

Cancer screening exams are important medical tests done when you’re at risk but don’t have symptoms. They help find cancer at its earliest stage, when the chances for successful treatment are best. MD Anderson recommends the following screening tests for breast cancer:

Starting at age 20: Women at all risk levels for breast cancer should practice breast self-awareness. Be familiar with how your breasts look and feel and immediately report any changes to your doctor.

Starting at age 40: Women at average risk for breast cancer should begin getting annual mammograms and breast exams.

Read more about breast cancer screening guidelines.

Breast Cancer Risk Factors

If you have any of the risk factors listed below, talk to your doctor about getting these tests more often and adding more tests, including breast MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and genetic testing. If you are concerned about inherited family syndromes that may cause breast cancer, we offer advanced genetic testing to let you know your risk.

Anything that increases your chance of getting breast cancer is a risk factor. These include:

  • Age: While most cases occur in women 50 or older, breast cancer sometimes develops in women in their 20s. Age is the main risk factor.
  • Family history (especially mother, sister, daughter) of ovarian and/or breast cancer
  • Hormones/childbirth: Your risk of breast cancer is higher if you:
    • Had your first period before age 12
    • Began menopause after age 55
    • Never had children
    • Had your first child after age 30
    • Used hormone therapy after menopause
  • History of radiation to the chest area
  • Previous abnormal breast biopsy results
  • Breast diseases such as atypical hyperplasia, or lobular or ductal carcinoma
  • Obesity or weight gain after menopause
  • Inherited susceptibility genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 account for about 5% to 10% of breast cancer cases. Tell your doctor if other women in your family have had breast cancer

Other breast cancer risk factors include:

  • Oral contraceptive use (birth control pills)
  • Diet high in saturated fats
  • Not getting enough exercise
  • Drinking more than one alcoholic drink a day

Not everyone with risk factors gets breast cancer. However, if you have risk factors, it’s a good idea to discuss them with your doctor.

Why Choose MD Anderson?

  • Advanced breast cancer treatments including targeted therapies, intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) and sentinel node biopsy
  • Least-invasive breast cancer procedures, including breast-sparing surgery
  • Range of breast reconstruction techniques
  • Genetic counseling for women at risk of breast cancer
  • Nationally known research program with numerous clinical trials, many not found elsewhere
  • Triple-negative breast cancer is part of MD Anderson's Moon Shots Program: an ambitious effort to reduce cancer deaths through the rapid discovery of new therapies

Breast Cancer Knowledge Center

Treatment at MD Anderson

Breast cancer is treated in our:

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Breast Cancer Prevention

Research shows that many cancers can be prevented. Visit the Prevention section of our website to find out steps you can take to avoid cancer.


© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center