Screening and Prevention

The American Cancer Society recommends that all women over the age of 40 have regular breast exams and mammograms. The frequency of such examinations and the specific age at which screening should begin depend upon an individual's risk factors for breast cancer, including personal and family medical histories.

Screening may include:

  • The documentation of your personal and family medical histories
  • A physical examination
  • Radiologic studies, such as mammography, breast ultrasonography and breast MRI

The goal of screening is to detect cancers at an early stage, before they are palpable and before they have spread. Mammography is the gold standard of breast screening. In use for over thirty years, mammography involves a series of x-rays of the breast. Mammography has been proven in randomized controlled trials to produce statistically significant reductions in death, and women over age 40 should have a screening mammogram every year.

At the Clinical Breast Cancer Program, we routinely provide more intensive screenings to women at higher risk for breast cancer. These may include mammograms, ultrasound, and breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams. Equally important preventive measures include breast self examination, as well as lifestyle changes such as a low fat diet and regular exercise which can help to reduce the risk of developing cancer. Click here to read more about the different types of breast imaging available.

Through its Cancer Genetics Program, a program designed for women who are at high risk for developing breast cancer, the Clinical Breast Cancer Program also offers comprehensive cancer risk assessment focusing on family history and genetics, along with environmental and lifestyle factors, as well as genetic counseling and testing.

Columbia University Breast Cancer Screening Partnership (PDF)The Clinical Breast Cancer Program administers and researches a series of interventions, to prevent breast cancer. Its efforts are directed primarily at women who do not have cancer, but who are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer. These include women with atypical ductal hyperplasia, or abnormal growth of the cells lining the milk ducts; lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS); a family history of breast cancer; and other risk factors.

For women with BRCA1/2 genetic mutations, stronger measures may be considered, including prophylactic surgery or ovary removal and tamoxifen therapy.

Are You Eligible for a FREE Mammogram? Click here to find out more.

All mammography technicians at Columbia University Medical Center's Clinical Breast Cancer Program are women who concern themselves with your comfort.

See here more regarding Recent Questions About the Usefulness of Mammography