Breast Cancer Screening

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Breast cancer screening refers to testing otherwise-healthy women for breast cancer in an attempt to achieve an earlier diagnosis. The assumption is that early detection will improve outcomes. A number of screening test have been employed including: clinical and self breast exams, mammography, genetic screening, ultrasound, and magnetic resonance imaging.

A clinical or self breast exam involves feeling the breast for lumps or other abnormalities. Evidence however does not support its use. Mammographic screening for breast cancer is also controversial. It uses x-rays to examine the breast for any uncharacteristic masses or lumps. The Cochrane collaboration in 2009 concluded that it is unclear whether screening does more good than harm. Many national organizations however recommend it. If mammography is decided upon it should only be done every two years in women between the ages of 50 and 74.