Detection and Screening

GeneticsFeatureSM

The Rasmussen family, patients at MedStar Franklin Square, wait to be genetically tested for breast cancer. 

While much is being done to find ways to prevent breast cancer, it still affects one out every eight women. But, thanks to improvements in the early detection of breast cancer, there are now millions of women who can call themselves breast cancer survivors.

There are things every woman can do to increase the odds that if cancer does occur, it is found at an early, more treatable stage. When breast cancer is found early, many women go on to live long and healthy lives. That’s why breast cancer screenings are so important—especially as a woman ages.

By practicing monthly breast self-examination, by visiting your doctor annually for a check-up, and by having a mammogram, you can take an active role in your breast health care.

Learn more about the types of breast cancer screening, including: 

Yvonne Ottaviano, MD, director of breast oncology, discusses the warning signs of breast cancer in the video below: 

Breast Self-Examination

Examine your breasts every month, checking for changes or lumps that are unfamiliar to you. Before menopause, the best time to do the exam is two weeks after the start of your monthly period. After menopause, choose a day and examine on that day each month.

Clinical Breast Exam

A breast exam performed by a trained medical professional should be included in your annual check-up.

Mammograms

The American Cancer Society recommends routine yearly mammograms for women age 40 and older. If you have a family history of breast cancer, your physician may recommend an annual mammogram starting earlier than age 40.

All women should have a regular checkup that includes a clinical breast exam—an exam by a health care professional. This can help you better understand your breast health: what’s normal and what isn’t; breast cancer risk factors; and the importance of bringing any changes to a doctor’s attention quickly.

Your MedStar Health doctor will order a baseline mammogram. This test will help your physician with future mammograms to detect any abnormalities. You can help yourself to reduce the fear and anxiety by keeping your routine scheduled appointments. MedStar Franklin Square offers next-day appointments for screening-mammograms should you need it, Monday through Saturday.

In the video below, Suman Rao, MD, medical oncologist and hematologist at MedStar Franklin Square, discusses new guidelines on breast cancer screening: 

Ready to get screened?

To make a mammogram appointment, call 877-715-HOPE (4673). If you are uninsured or underinsured and a resident of Baltimore City, you may qualify for free breast cancer screenings. Call 410-350-2001 to learn more.

Genetic Screening

MedStar Health offers genetic screenings for breast cancer, including genetic counseling and blood tests, which map your genetic risk and help determine your chance for developing breast cancer caused by genetic mutations that are passed from generation to generation. “Consider a genetic risk assessment if you have had cancer at a young age, if you or a close family member had more than one kind, or a rare type of cancer (ovary, pancreas, etc.), or if two or more close relatives on the same side of the family had the same or related cancers (e.g., breast and ovary or colon and uterine),” says Emily Kuchinsky, MS, CGC.

This kind of screening (also called a risk assessment) is directed by a genetic counselor, who will take a full family medical history. A BRCA-gene-mutation blood test may be included. Once the results arrive, your genetic counselor will help you understand the results and direct toward next steps.

It is important to remember that even if you are a carrier of the gene, it does not mean with certainty that you will develop breast cancer.

Screening Guidelines

MedStar Health doctors and the American Cancer Society recommend different breast cancer screening guidelines based on the following risk categories:

Average Risk

  • Age 20 to 34
    • Monthly breast self-examination
    • Breast examination by a trained professional every three years
  • Age 35 to 39
    • Monthly breast self-examination
    • Breast examination by a trained professional every three years
  • Age 40 and over
    • Monthly breast self-examination
    • Annual breast examination by a trained professional
    • Annual mammogram

Breast cancer can take years to develop and women rarely have any symptoms in the early stages. There is no way to know who will get breast cancer and who will not. But there are risk factors that may increase the chance you will get it. Average risk may increase based on:

  • Personal history of breast abnormalities
  • Current age
  • Breast cancer history of close relatives
  • Whether a woman has had a breast biopsy
  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Race

High-risk: Family history of breast cancer (at least one first-degree relative—parent or sibling—who has had breast cancer)

  • Women should be aware of any changes in their breasts. Monthly breast self-examination beginning at 20 years old is optional, but highly recommended.
  • Clinical breast examination every six months starting 10 years before the age at which the youngest family member was diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • Annual mammography starting 10 years before the age of the youngest family member with breast cancer (but no earlier than 25 and no later than 40).
  • Consider annual MRI (consult with your physician).

High-risk: Personal diagnosis of increased risk based on breast biopsy, such as atypical hyperplasia, lobular carcinoma in situ

  • Women should be aware of any changes in their breasts. Monthly breast self-examination beginning at 20 years old is optional, but highly recommended.
  • Clinical breast examination every six months beginning at time of diagnosis.
  • Annual mammography beginning at the time of diagnosis.
  • Consider annual MRI (consult with your physician).

Reducing your Risk

Although breast cancer cannot be prevented, you can help reduce your risk by following some healthy guidelines, including

Exercise:  The American Cancer Society recommends two and a half hours of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week to decrease risk of many cancers, including breast cancer.

Avoid obesity: Being overweight can increase your cancer risk. Excess weight causes the body to produce and circulate more estrogen and insulin, hormones that can stimulate cancer growth.

Limit alcohol intake:  People who drink alcohol should limit their intake to no more than 2 drinks per day.

Early detection increases the chances for effective treatment. The 5-year survival rate for Stage 1 breast cancer is 95%. The American Cancer Society recommends yearly mammograms beginning at age 40 and older.

It is important to note, however, a great deal is still unknown about breast cancer. Some women who have risk factors never develop breast cancer and most women who develop the disease have no known risk factors.

Location Information

To schedule an appointment, please call443-777-6500.

MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center
The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Cancer Institute
Breast Center
9101 Franklin Square Drive
Suite 110
Baltimore, Maryland 21237
Fax: 443-777-6249

MedStar Health Bel Air Medical Campus
Breast Center at Bel Air 
12 MedStar Blvd. 
Bel Air, MD 21015
Phone: 410-515-6090

Breast Cancer Specialists

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