What Are the Roles for Physical Exam, Mammography, MRI and Breast Self-Exam in the Screening Process for Breast Cancer?

Question: What are the roles for physical exam, mammography, MRI and breast self-exam in the screening process for breast cancer?

Answer: Annual breast examination by a woman's primary care provider and monthly breast self-examination are essential parts of personal health maintenance. Annual mammography is recommended for all patients beginning at age 40, and for certain high-risk patients at earlier times, as dictated by her doctor. Breast MRI is used for women who have exceptionally dense breast tissue, or who fall into certain well-characterized categories that show high risk of developing breast cancer. Finally, ultrasound examination is very helpful in young women, who typically have very dense breast tissue and for whom standard mammography is not as helpful.

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