Breast cancer is the second most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related death in women.

Treatments for breast cancer have significantly advanced and survival rates have steadily improved since the 1990s. Early detection has contributed greatly.

Learn more about breast cancer screening and breast self-exams:

Breast self-exam

There is conflicting information available concerning breast self-exams. On the one hand, research shows that breast cancer survival has not improved whether or not women perform a self-exam. However, healthcare professionals emphasize that there is value in conducting a regular breast self-exam in order to help identify breast cancer in its early stages. Sarah Cannon recommends that starting at age 20 women be familiar with their breasts on a monthly basis, and promptly report any changes to a healthcare provider.

What's normal and what's not

There is no “normal” or “standard” breast among women. Breasts differ in size, shape and density, and often one breast will be slightly different from its pair. Pregnancy as well as monthly cycles can change the size and tenderness of your breasts. If you have any concerns, share them with your healthcare provider.

Breast cancer screening

The goal of all cancer screenings is to help identify cancer in an early stage. In the case of breast cancer screenings, women 40 years of age and older should consult with their doctor annually about a mammogram and breast exam by their physician or practitioner. Women ages 20-40 should have a clinical breast exam conducted every three years.

What are the screenings?

Clinical breast exam (CBE)

Performed by your healthcare provider, it involves palpating the breast and the underarm areas (armpits) to check for lumps or any other abnormality.


This X-ray of the breast is used to find tumors too small to feel as well as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), abnormal cells in the lining of a breast duct that can develop into invasive cancer.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Women with a high risk of breast cancer may be screened using an MRI, which uses a magnet, radio waves and a computer to create detailed images of the breast and surrounding areas.

Sarah Cannon offers a comprehensive breast health program including world leaders in cancer care, patient navigation and access to clinical trials.