Breast Screening Guidelines for Women including Breast MRI

Breast Cancer resized 600 

Type of Test

Who should have it

How often

Self Breast Exam

Self exams are performed to detect changes that could lead to breast cancer. These exams help you to learn what is normal for your breast tissue. Most of the time breast changes are not cancer; however, you should speak with your physician regarding any changes.

All women beginning by the age of 20. This includes women who are pregnant, breast-feeding, have breast implants or have gone through menopause.


It's best to check about a week after your period, when breasts are not swollen or tender, If you no longer have a period, examine your breasts on the same day every month.  If you forget to examine yourself, just do it when you remember.

Clinical Breast Exam

Your physician examines your breasts.  Physicians are trained to look for subtle signs and changes.  Up to 25% of breast lumps are discovered on physical exam.

All women should have this exam as part of their routine exam.

Women in their 20's and 30's should have a breast exam once every three years.  Starting at the age of 40, women should have one every year.


An x-ray of the breast, using a special low radiation camera. The image is printed on film.

Generally, all women starting at age 40; women who are at high risk may need to start earlier. For patients who have breast implants, speak with your physician regarding screening recommendations.

For women at low to average risk once a year. High risk women may need to have them more often based on their physician's recommendations.

Digital Mammogram

An x-ray of your breast, using a special low radiation camera.  Rather than the standard film, an electronic image is seen on a computer.  The computer screen can be adjusted for better clarity and view of your breast.

Digital mammograms tend to be higher in contrast. They are more effective for women who have dense breast tissue. Digital mammography is slightly more sensitive than film-screen mammography.

For women at low to average risk once a year. High risk women may need to have them more often based on their physician's recommendations.


Uses high frequency sound waves that are transmitted through breast tissue from a hand-held unit called a transducer. These sound waves bounce off breast tissues. The "echoes" created as a result is then recorded by a computer that makes an image of the breast tissue; displays on computer screen.   

An ultrasound test may be used to take a closer look at areas of your breast that your physician still has questions after clinical breast exam and mammogram.  Ultrasound may also be needed to clarify findings seen on your mammogram or on you breast MRI.

Recommended by your physician or by your radiologist.

Type of TEST




Genetic Testing

A blood test to analyze the DNA for genetic mutation. A gene mutation is a permanent change in the DNA sequence that makes up the gene.


Women with two or more close family members who have had breast cancer (parents, siblings or children), or those that meet specific guidelines determined by their physician.


Only once.  Recommended by your physician.


Magnetic Resonance Imaging uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to image organs and structures inside the body.  MRI may show problems that cannot be seen with other imaging methods. More info:

Women at high risk, especially those positive for the breast cancer gene; women with first degree relatives who are positive for the breast cancer gene.

Women diagnosed with breast cancer should have an MRI to search for other cancers in the same breast or in the other breast.

Once a year, along with a mammogram; often based on their physician's recommendations.


PET CT scanning is an entire body scan.  PET CT is used to determine if disease has moved beyond the breast area.

Women who have a diagnosis of breast cancer with positive axillary nodes.

Recommended by your physician

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