Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American women. Incidence tends to increase with age, with 95% of new cases occurring in those who are 40 and older. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), between the years 2004 and 2008, women age 20 to 24 had the lowest incidence of breast cancer. However, because breast cancer may cause no symptoms early on when the tumor is most treatable, screening is critical to detecting breast cancer at an early stage.
ACS recommends the following for young women:
- Women in their 20s and 30s should have a breast exam by a health professional about every 3 years as part of their regular health exam.
- Breast self-exams are an option for women starting in their 20s; women should report any changes they feel in their breasts to their health care provider.
- Mammograms generally aren't recommended for women of average risk who are under the age of 40.
The recommendations above are for women without known risk factors for breast cancer. If you have an increased risk, you should develop an individualized screening program with the guidance of your doctor. The ACS link below provides a list of factors that can increase the risk of breast cancer, including genetic predisposition and family or personal history of breast cancer. ACS recommends that women at high lifetime risk be screened with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in addition to mammography annually beginning at age 30.
Sources Used in Current Review
American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2011-2012. PDF available for download at http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@epidemiologysurveilance/documents/document/acspc-030975.pdf through http://www.cancer.org. Accessed July 2012.
American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Early Detection of Cancer. Available online at http://www.cancer.org/Healthy/FindCancerEarly/CancerScreeningGuidelines/american-cancer-society-guidelines-for-the-early-detection-of-cancer through http://www.cancer.org. Accessed July 2012.