Breast cancer screening: Regular exams are crucial (w/VIDEO)

September 29, 2013 | by


Although better surgical techniques, radiation treatments and chemotherapy regimens have dramatically improved survival odds for breast cancer patients, catching the disease early remains one of the most important factors for better outcomes.

According to the National Cancer Institute, patients with localized breast cancer have a 98.6 percent chance of five-year survival, whereas those with metastasized disease have only a 24.3 percent chance.

Additionally, "catching the cancer in its earliest stages can help a woman possibly avoid chemotherapy and more invasive surgeries," said Laura Kruper, M.D., director of City of Hope's Rita Cooper Finkel and J. William Finkel Women’s Health Center. This means fewer side effects and faster recovery, Kruper said.

In the video above, Kruper explains some of the current guidelines for breast cancer screening, including:

  • Annual mammograms are recommended for all women of normal risk — as determined by genetics, family history, breast density and other factors — age 40 and above.
  • Those at a higher risk may need to start annual mammograms at a younger age, possibly as young as 25.
  • Women with dense breasts should augment their mammograms with an ultrasound or get an MRI screening.
  • Because of the risk of false-negatives (i.e., screening tests failing to detect the cancer), women experiencing any physical symptoms in the breast region — such as changes in nipple size or shape, redness or warmth of the breast, or feeling a lump or mass — should consult a physician, no matter how recent the last screening was.

In this video, Kruper demonstrates a self breast-exam so women can become familiar with their breast tissue and notice changes if and when they occur.

"Over 232,000 women are diagnosed each year with breast cancer and nearly 40,000 die, so it's important for women to know their breasts and notice any changes," Kruper said.

Join our breast cancer TweetChat on Tuesday, Oct. 15, noon to 1 p.m. PT.