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Breast Screening and Breast Biopsy: What Every Woman Should Know

By Lyda E. Rojas Carroll, MD, FACS | Breast Surgery

A woman should plan to have a mammogram every year beginning at age 40, preferably one week after her period has ended. Those women with dense breasts should also request an ultrasound to allow for better visualization. Ultrasound uses sounds waves to determine if there are solid masses hidden within the dense tissue. In Jan. 2013, a New York state law went into effect requiring mammography providers to let women know if they have breast density and to suggest additional screening options.

If an abnormality is detected on mammogram or ultrasound the first method of diagnosis should be through a mammogram or ultrasound biopsy NOT surgery.  Approximately 85% of breast biopsies are benign and do not require surgery.

If a woman has a lifetime breast cancer risk of more than 20%, she should request an MRI of the breast as part of the screening process. To determine a lifetime risk, an assessment based on the Gail model, can be accessed online at https://bcrisktool.cancer.gov/ assessment. Also, women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent should request an MRI of the breast.

The National Consortium of Cancer Network (NCCN) provides guidelines for the treatment of breast cancer that is followed by all cancer centers and is available for patients to view online at www.nccn.org