Screening in Breast Cancer

Executive Summary

Breast cancer screening among women is integrated by determining the initial signs and symptoms related to the disease. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has engaged doctors and other experts on breast cancer to implement preventive measures against the disease and make recommendations on how doctors can help patients avoid diseases or find them early. Some of the standard screening techniques for breast cancer include mammograms, Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), and clinical breast exams. Breast cancer screening is done clinic, hospital, or doctor’s office. Familiarity with the changes in breast issues by analyzing the signs and symptoms. Several risks and benefits rely on the screening of breast cancer.

What is Breast Cancer Screening?

Breast cancer screening means checking a woman’s breasts for cancer before there are signs or symptoms. Although Breast Cancer screening cannot prevent breast cancer, it can help find Breast Cancer early, when it is easier to treat ​1​. Talk to your doctor about which Breast Cancer screening tests are proper for you and when you should have them.

Breast Cancer Screening Recommendations

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is an organization made up of doctors and disease experts who research the best way to prevent diseases and make recommendations on how doctors can help patients avoid diseases or find them early. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that women 50 to 74 years old and at average risk for Breast Cancer get a mammogram every two years. Women 40 to 49 years old should talk to their doctor or other health care professional about when to start and how often to get a mammogram ​2​. Women should weigh the benefits and risks of screening tests when deciding whether to begin getting mammograms before age 50.

What are the available Breast Cancer Screening Tests


A mammogram is an X-Ray of the breast. Mammograms are the best way to find 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. At this time, a mammogram is the best way to find Breast Cancer for most women.

Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

A breast MRI uses magnets and radio waves to take pictures of the breast. MRI is used along with mammograms to screen women at high risk of getting Breast Cancer. Because breast MRIs may appear abnormal even when there is no cancer, they are not used for women at average risk.

Clinical Breast Exam

A clinical breast exam is an examination by a doctor or nurse who uses their hands to feel for lumps or other changes.

Where can you go for Breast Cancer screening?

You can get screened for Breast Cancer at a clinic, hospital, or doctor’s office. If you want to be screened for breast cancer, call your doctor’s office. They can help you schedule an appointment.

Breast Self-Awareness

Being familiar with how your breasts look and feel can help you notice symptoms such as lumps, pain, or changes in size that may be of concern. These could include changes found during a breast self-exam. You should report any changes you notice to your doctor or health care provider. Having a clinical breast exam or doing a breast self-exam has not been found to lower the risk of dying from Breast Cancer ​3​.

Benefits and Risks of Screening

Every breast screening tests has benefits and risks, which is why it’s important to talk to your doctor before getting any screening test, like a mammogram.

Benefit of Screening

Early Detection: One of the primary benefits of breast cancer screening is the ability to detect cancer in its early stages. Early detection increases the chances of successful treatment and improves overall survival rates. When breast cancer is detected early, it is typically smaller in size and less likely to have spread to other parts of the body.

Improved Treatment Options: Early detection allows for a wider range of treatment options. With early-stage breast cancer, less aggressive treatments, such as lumpectomy (removal of the tumor) or radiation therapy, may be sufficient to eliminate the cancer. This can help avoid more invasive procedures like mastectomy (complete removal of the breast) and can potentially preserve breast tissue.

Increased Survival Rates: Detecting breast cancer early through screening has been shown to improve survival rates. When breast cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, the five-year survival rate is generally higher compared to cases where cancer is diagnosed at a later stage. Regular screening can help identify breast cancer before it has a chance to grow and spread, leading to more successful treatment outcomes.

Reduced Mortality: Breast cancer screening programs have been successful in reducing mortality rates associated with the disease. By detecting breast cancer at an early stage, screening allows for timely intervention and treatment, reducing the likelihood of cancer progression and subsequent death.

Increased Quality of Life: Early detection and treatment of breast cancer can have a positive impact on the quality of life for individuals diagnosed with the disease. Early-stage treatment options often result in less extensive surgery and a reduced need for aggressive chemotherapy or radiation therapy, leading to fewer side effects and a better overall quality of life.

Psychological Benefits: Breast cancer screening can provide peace of mind for individuals who receive negative results, knowing that there are no signs of cancer at that time. Screening also allows for early detection of benign conditions or other abnormalities, which can help alleviate anxiety and provide reassurance.

Risks of Screening

Harms can include false-positive test results when a doctor sees something that looks like cancer but is not. It can lead to more tests, which can be expensive, invasive, time-consuming, and may cause Anxiety. Tests also can lead to over diagnosis when doctors find cancer that would not have gone on to cause symptoms or problems or even may go away on its own. Treatment of these cancers is called overtreatment. Overtreatment can include treatments recommended for breast cancer, such as Surgery or Radiation therapy. These can cause unnecessary and unwanted side effects.
Other potential harms from Breast Cancer screening include Pain during the procedure and radiation exposure from the mammogram test. While the amount of radiation in a mammogram is small, there may be risks with having repeated X-rays. Mammograms may also miss some false-negative test results, delaying finding cancer and getting treatment.

What is an endoscopy?

An Endoscopy is a procedure where the surgeon uses specialized instruments to examine and operate on the body’s internal organs and vessels. It helps doctors to see issues inside the body without making large incisions. A surgeon inserts an endoscope through a small cut or a natural opening in the body. An endoscope is a flexible tube with a camera attached to it that lets your doctor see. Your doctor can control forceps and scissors at the end of the endoscope to perform Biopsy operations.


  1. 1.
    Elmore J, Armstrong K, Lehman C, Fletcher S. Screening for breast cancer. JAMA. 2005;293(10):1245-1256. doi:10.1001/jama.293.10.1245
  2. 2.
    Klarenbach S, Sims-Jones N, Lewin G, et al. Recommendations on screening for breast cancer in women aged 40-74 years who are not at increased risk for breast cancer. CMAJ. 2018;190(49):E1441-E1451. doi:10.1503/cmaj.180463
  3. 3.
    Seely J, Alhassan T. Screening for breast cancer in 2018-what should we be doing today? Curr Oncol. 2018;25(Suppl 1):S115-S124. doi:10.3747/co.25.3770