Every day of the year, breast cancer affects the lives of thousands of women. As the Susan G. Komen® organization reminds us: Breast cancer accounts for one out of every three cancer diagnoses in women. In 2019 in the U.S. alone, approximately 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women.1

Women reading this: it’s so important — starting at age 20 — to take steps that detect cancer early. If it is detected early, in stage zero or one, the five-year relative survival rate is close to 100 percent.2

The keys to early detection are performing regular breast self-exams, and screening and detection by receiving an annual mammogram.


Image provided: Komen NYC

You can download a PDF of the complete self-exam instructions in English and Spanish here.

Starting at age 20, it’s recommended that women perform a breast self-exam once a month, through age 40. You should also have your breasts examined every 3 years by a medical professional. 



If you have a family history of breast cancer (at least one first-degree relative—parent or sibling—who has had breast cancer), you need to pay extra attention to early detection:

  • Women should be aware of any changes in their breasts. Monthly breast self-examination beginning at 20 years old is highly recommended.
  • Clinical breast examination every six months starting 10 years before the age at which the youngest family member was diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • Annual mammography starting 10 years before the age of the youngest family member with breast cancer (but no earlier than 25 and no later than 40).
  • Consider annual MRI (consult with your physician).4



Mammograms are a type of breast imaging. Low dose x-rays are used to look inside the breast to check for abnormalities in density or mass. Mammogram screening guidelines differ based on age and risk level. Beginning at age 40, it is important to talk to your doctor about the benefits of mammography. 


Women who do not have any family history of breast or ovarian cancer are thought to have an average risk. 

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force suggests these guidelines for average-risk: women aged 50 to 74 years should have a mammogram every other year

HIGHER RISK: How it is determined


If you’re over 35, find out your lifetime risk using an online tool: the Gail Model.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says these women may benefit from screening in their 40s or earlier. If you fall into this grouping, talk to your health care provider to decide the best course of action for you.


If you don’t have a primary care doctor, you can find doctors in your network near you using our Find a Doctor tool. Primary care providers include family physicians, internal medicine doctors, and OB/GYN. Start a discussion about screening sooner than later — because it could help save your life.


1 https://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/FactsandStatistics.html

2 https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/understanding-a-breast-cancer-diagnosis/breast-cancer-survival-rates.html

3 http://www.komennyc.org/site/PageServer?pagename=breasthealth_selfexam

4 https://www.medstarcancer.org/conditions/self-exam/

5 https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/brca-gene-test/about/pac-20384815


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