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Screening methods

Early detection of breast cancer is the key to good prognosis and to ensuring that less invasive options are used. Here are some of the screening methods that may be used.

Breast awareness

Preventing breast cancer and preventing the spread and recurrence of existing breast cancer requires early detection. Women should be familiar with their own breasts to help notice changes that should be discussed with a doctor. It is no longer recommended that women perform monthly breast self-exams using a systematic method to check the breasts. Instead, experts recommend that you get to know the look and feel of your own breasts so that you will be able to detect changes. If you notice any changes, talk to your doctor.


A mammogram is a type of X-ray that can see changes inside the breast that are too small to feel and can give your doctor more information about changes found during a self-examination. Mammograms can find an early-stage breast cancer tumour long before it becomes detectable as a lump during physical examination.

In Canada, it is recommended that women of average breast cancer risk between the ages of 50 and 74 years have a mammogram done every 2 or 3 years. Some women may be advised to have a mammogram done earlier or more often if they are at higher risk of developing breast cancer. For women under 50 or over 74, discuss your risk of breast cancer with your health care provider to determine if having a mammogram done will be of benefit to you.

Clinical breast exam

In a clinical breast exam, your health care provider thoroughly examines both breasts to try and detect any abnormal lumps or bumps and any other signs that may require further testing, like rashes, differences in size or shape between the 2 breasts, or dimpling.

Ruth Ackerman in association with the MediResource Clinical Team

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