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Breast cancer detection

3 steps to early breast cancer detection

Women can proactively increase their chances of early detection of breast cancer by following three recommended steps included in the guidelines set by the American Cancer Society. This three-pronged approach is believed to be more effective than any one exam or test alone.

“Being proactive with your health by communicating with your physician and getting regular screening exams is key to early detection. And early detection has proven to save lives,” says Beverly Copelan, R.T.(R)(M), manager of the Doris Shaheen Breast Health Center at Piedmont. 

STEP 1: Breast self-exam (BSE)

A BSE is something every woman should do once a month at home. Breast self-exams help you become familiar with how your breasts look and feel so you can alert your doctor if there are any changes.

STEP 2: Clinical breast exam (CBE)

The CBE is performed by a healthcare professional who is trained to recognize many different types of abnormalities and warning signs. This in-office exam is typically completed by your family physician or gynecologist at your annual exam.

STEP 3: Mammogram

A mammogram is an X-ray that allows a specialist to examine the breast tissue for any suspicious areas. Mammograms can often show a breast lump before it can be felt.

Most women (85 percent) who develop breast cancer do not have a family history of this disease, according the American Cancer Society. However, having a first-degree relative (mother, sister, or daughter) with breast cancer almost doubles a woman’s risk. Having two first-degree relatives increases risk about three-fold.

As with any condition, it is important to know your family health history. Women with a family history of breast cancer or a genetic predisposition for the disease should be screened with a MRI in addition to routine mammograms.

When and how often:




Breast self-exam (BSE)


20 and over


Monthly. Women should be told about benefits and limitations of BSE. They should report any new symptoms to their doctor.

Clinical breast exam (CBE)


20 - 39



40 and over


Part of a periodic health exam, preferably every 3 years.

Part of a periodic health exam, preferably every year.



40 and over


Yearly, continuing for as long as a woman is in good health.

According to the American Cancer Society

To schedule a mammogram, click here or need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.


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