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Breast Cancer Prevention

As cancer screenings for early detection of breast cancer and cancer treatment options have improved, the rate of death from breast cancer has been declining. Currently, the chance of a woman having invasive breast cancer sometime during her life is a little less than one in eight.

Lifestyle Changes

Starting today, you can take steps to lower your risk of getting breast cancer. We recommend:

  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Exercising regularly
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • For new mothers, breastfeeding for a few months may reduce your risk as well
  • For post-menopausal women, not using hormone therapy (PHT) can avoid increasing your risk

Breast Cancer Screening

Early detection is the best prevention for breast cancer. The earlier we diagnose breast cancer, the better the chances that treatment will work. The two most important factors in predicting a patient's outlook are the size of the breast cancer and how far it has spread.

Follow these recommended guidelines for early detection of breast cancer, even before symptoms appear:

Breast Self-Exam (BSE)

BSE is an option for women starting in their 20s. Women should be aware of the benefits and limitations of BSE. It is okay not to do BSE, or not to do it on a regular schedule. Research has shown that BSE plays a small role in finding breast cancer compared with finding a breast lump by chance.

Women should report any changes in how their breasts look or feel to a health expert right away (but remember that most of the time these breast changes are not cancer). If you choose to do BSE, you should have your doctor or nurse check your method to make sure you are doing it the right way.

Clinical Breast Exam

Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam as part of a regular exam by a health expert at least every three years. After age 40, women should have a breast exam every year. It is useful to schedule the clinical breast exam shortly before the mammogram.


Women age 40 and older should have a screening mammogram every year and should continue doing so for as long as they are in good health. While mammograms can miss some cancers, they are still a good way to find breast cancer.

Women with a higher risk of breast cancer should talk with their doctor about the best screening plan for them. This might mean starting mammograms when they are younger, having extra screening tests (such as an MRI), or having exams more often.

Cancer Screening For Women

At Dignity Health, we are committed to cancer prevention and early detection. Learn more about our cancer screening guidelines for women.