Basic Facts About Breast Health:
American Cancer Society Guidelines

The following information was contributed by the American Cancer Society.

The goal of screening examinations for early breast cancer detection is to find cancers before they start to cause symptoms. Breast cancers that are detected because they cause symptoms tend to be relatively larger and likely to have spread beyond the breast. In contrast, breast cancers found during screening examinations are more likely to be small and still confined to the breast.

The American Cancer Society believes the use of mammography, clinical breast examination and breast self-examination offers women the best opportunity for reducing the breast cancer death rate through early detection. This combined approach is clearly better than any one examination. The American Cancer Society does not recommend relying solely on any of these methods.

American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Early Detection of Breast Cancer

If You Are Age 20 to 39:

  • Have a clinical breast exam by your health care provider at least once every three years
  • Do a breast self-exam each month

If You Are Age 40 and Over:

  • Have a mammogram every year
  • Have a clinical breast exam by your health care provider every year
  • Do a breast self-exam each month

Ask your health care provider to teach you the proper way to do a thorough breast self-exam. Click for additional instructions.

If you have a history of breast cancer in your family, discuss mammography screening guidelines and scheduling with your health care provider.

Basic Facts About Breast Health:


Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.