Image for cancer testsThe American Cancer Society (ACS) offers these general screening recommendations for healthy women. If you have certain risk factors or symptoms, work with your doctor, who can create a cancer screening schedule that is right for you. It is important to remember that people of any age can get cancer, but the risk for most cancers increase with age.

The following is advice from ACS on how to watch for common cancers in young and middle-aged women. Since screening tests and exams are the best way to catch cancer early, carefully check to make sure you are getting what you need.

In women, breast cancer is the most common cancer other than skin cancer. It is also one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in women.

Screening Tests

The ACS recommends the following screening tests for breast cancer:

  • Breast self-exam (BSE)—This is an option for women beginning in their 20s. This is a step-by-step examination of your breasts that you do yourself. It is one tool that can be used to help detect changes in your breasts that may or may not be a sign of cancer. You should understand that the self-exam has limits, benefits, and potential harms. You should discuss this with your doctor and decide if doing regular breast self-exams are right for you. In general, you should be familiar with how your breasts look and feel, and report any changes or anything abnormal to your doctor.
  • Clinical breast exam (CBE)—During this exam, the doctor checks for suspicious lumps or other changes in your breasts. If you are in your 20s or 30s, you should have a CBE at least every three years. If you are aged 40 or older, you should have CBE every year.
  • Mammograms—This exam uses low-dose x-rays to make a picture of your breast tissue. The ACS recommends having a mammogram every year starting at age 40. You can continue to have this exam yearly if you are in good health. Due to family history, genetics, or other factors, some women may also want to have an MRI in addition to mammograms. Your doctor can help you decide if additional screening is recommended for you.