View all posts

Don’t Put it Off: Get Screened for Breast Cancer

Nearly every woman knows someone who’s had breast cancer—whether a loved one or a friend. More than 300,000 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with the disease this year, and more than 40,000 will die of it.

Without a doubt, the best defense against breast cancer is screening. Screening tests save lives by finding breast cancer in its early stages, when tumors are still too tiny for a woman or her doctor to feel and when the disease is usually easier to treat successfully.

“Getting regular screening is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of dying from breast cancer,” said Catherine Tuite, MD, a radiologist and member of the breast cancer imaging team at Fox Chase Cancer Center. “If a breast cancer is found early through screening mammography, this may mean less aggressive treatment can be offered.”

When should you be screened?

Most women should have yearly mammograms starting at age 40, Tuite advised. But be sure to ask your doctor what the best screening schedule is for you.

Learn more about Screening Guidelines for Breast Cancer.

Options for screening

Fox Chase offers several breast cancer screening tests. Your doctor can help you determine which one is right for you. Here’s a look at three of the tests:

Traditional mammograms. These low-dose breast x-rays let doctors find abnormal changes in breast tissue. Typically, two pictures are taken of each breast—one from the side and one from above.

Since 1989, standard mammography has helped reduce female breast cancer deaths in the U.S. by nearly 40 percent—making it the “gold standard” for early detection, Tuite said.

3-D mammograms. You may hear this type of mammogram referred to as breast tomosynthesis. During a 3-D mammogram, a low-dose x-ray machine sweeps over the breast, taking multiple images from different angles. Then a computer combines all these images to create a 3-D picture of the breast.

These multiple slices of breast tissue help give doctors a clearer view of breast tissue. As a result, 3-D mammograms reduce the number of callbacks for false alarms, which suggest cancer may be present when it isn’t.

“Some evidence also suggests that 3-D mammograms may help us find additional breast cancers that would otherwise be hidden on standard mammograms,” Tuite said.

Mammograms of dense breasts are sometimes difficult to read since both dense tissue and cancer appear white on mammograms. This newer kind of mammogram is appropriate for any woman. But it may especially improve the accuracy of mammograms in women with dense breasts—defined as breasts that have a lot of fibrous or glandular tissue and not much fat.

Molecular breast imaging (MBI). Fox Chase is one of the few area hospitals to offer this new, state-of-the art tool in which a small amount of a radiotracer is injected in the arm. That substance is absorbed by breast cancer cells so they show up clearly on an MBI image.

MBI provides clear images even with dense breast tissue. And combined with mammograms, it may detect more cancers in women with dense breasts than mammograms alone. Consequently, doctors may advise MBI along with mammograms for women with dense breasts. MBI can also be used when:

  • Other imaging tests for breast cancer are inconclusive and more information is needed.
  • As an alternative to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) when it can’t be performed—for example, in women with claustrophobia or poor kidney function. 

Learn more about Breast Cancer Screening at Fox Chase Cancer Center.