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What You and Your Health Care Provider Can Do for Breast Cancer

Good health comes from teamwork. Your health care provider can order tests, but it's up to you to get them done. Tell your provider if you notice any changes in your breasts, such as a lump. Let your provider know if you have a family history of breast cancer or any other risk factors. Risk factors for breast cancer include:

  • Being 60 years old or older.
  • Being exposed to radiation as a child or young adult.
  • Starting your period before age 12.
  • Starting menopause after age 55.
  • Having your first child after age 35.
  • Taking hormone therapy.

You can reduce your risks of breast cancer by:

  • Drinking less alcohol (wine, beer and spirits).
  • Staying at a healthy weight.
  • Exercising or being active at least three times a week.

When you get a mammogram, your health care provider should let you know the results. Your provider should also tell you when to get your next mammogram. It's up to you to schedule your test and follow your provider's advice.

If you are a woman... You should...
Younger than 50 Talk to your provider about the advantages and disadvantages of mammograms. 
Talk with your provider about when you should have your first mammogram.
50 to 74 years old Get a mammogram every year.
Older than 74 Ask your provider if you should continue having regular mammograms. 
Ask your provider how often to get a mammogram.

According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force 2009 Recommendations

Other Ways to Find Breast Cancer

CBE, or Clinical Breast Exam—Your health care provider checks your breasts. The provider looks for lumps, changes in size or shape, and other changes that are not normal. If you are in your 20s or 30s, talk with your provider about a CBE. And ask when you should have your first mammogram.

BSE, or Breast Self-Exam—The American Cancer Society recommends you check your own breasts for lumps, changes in size or shape, and other changes. Talk with your provider about doing your own exams. Ask your provider about the benefits and limitations of this exam. If you want to use BSE, ask your provider to teach you how. And tell your provider right away if you have any changes.

Page text updated March 14, 2014.

The information on this page was compiled by the New Mexico Coalition for Healthcare Quality from a variety of sources, including (but not limited to) U.S. Preventive Task Force, American Cancer Society, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, National Breast Cancer Foundation, National Cancer Institute, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and Mayo Clinic. This information summarizes core care elements appropriate to most adult women.  This information should not be construed as representing standards of care nor as a substitute for individualized evaluation and treatment on clinical circumstances by a qualified health care professional. Please see our disclaimer.

For more information about this complex health issue, please see the Breast Cancer Links page for resources and sources of information.

An initiative of the New Mexico Coalition for Healthcare Quality and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, with additional funding provided by HealthInsight New Mexico