What is breast cancer screening?

Updated: Apr 10, 2019
  • Author: Erin V Newton, MD; Chief Editor: Marie Catherine Lee, MD, FACS  more...
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Early detection remains the primary way to prevent the development of life-threatening breast cancer. Breast cancers that are detected when smaller or nonpalpable are more treatable and thus are associated with a more favorable prognosis.

Imaging studies used in breast cancer screening include the following:

  • Mammography
  • Ultrasonography
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

The survival benefit of early detection with mammography screening has been demonstrated. However, advances in imaging technology and disagreements over recommended schedules have complicated the issue of screening. As with any cancer screening program, careful consideration must be given to the risks of developing breast cancer as well as the benefits and harms of the screening intervention, along with the cost involved.

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