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Breast Cancer Prevention and Screening

Breast Cancer Screening Tests

When the breast cancer is discovered early, you have more treatment options and a better chance for a cure. Screening is essential in finding breast cancer in this treatable stage, before symptoms are felt.

The American Cancer Society recommends the following screening tests for women at average risk for breast cancer. Women with a higher risk should talk with their doctor about when to begin screening, and which tests they should use.

Breast cancer screenings include:

  • Mammogram is recommended annually beginning at age 40. Make an appointment online.
  • 3D Mammogram (Breast Tomosynthesis) allows for earlier detection. Make an appointment online.
  • Breast MRI for additional screening in high-risk women

Diagnostic Procedures

In addition to a diagnostic mammogram, other diagnostic procedures help characterize breast abnormalities to either identify, or rule out, breast cancer. Click on each procedure to get more details.

Breast Cancer Symptoms

Sometimes there are no symptoms of breast cancer in its early stages. However, talk to your doctor as soon as possible if you notice anything unusual.

  • Any lump, thickening or swelling in the breast or armpit
  • Clear or bloody discharge from the nipple
  • Pain or persistent tenderness of the breast , nipple or armpit
  • Change in size or shape of the breast or nipple
  • Inverted or flat nipple
  • Scaly, red, swollen or dimpled skin around the breast or nipple

Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

Breast cancer can develop for a variety of reasons. Talk to your doctor about your risk.

  • Family history -  Your risk may increase if anyone in your immediate family has been diagnosed with breast cancer, particularly mothers, sisters and daughters.
  • Age -  Most breast cancers are diagnosed in women older than age 50.
  • Race - While the risk is higher for white women, African-American women are more likely to die from breast cancer.
  • Menstruation and menopause - Beginning menstruation before age 12 or entering menopause after age 55 means prolonged lifetime exposure to estrogen and progesterone, which may increase your risk.
  • Hormone therapy - Risk increases when the combination of estrogen and progesterone has been used for four or more years. This treatment for menopausal symptoms may also make malignant tumors harder to detect on mammograms.
  • Not having children or pregnancy after age 30 - Estrogen levels are lower during pregnancy, which may protect breast tissue from estrogen exposure.
  • Exposure to radiation - Risk increases if you received radiation treatments to your chest as a child or young adult, but the risk is greatest if treatments occurred as an adolescent during breast development.
  • Genetics - Mutations in one of several genes, namely BRCA1 and BRCA2 - genes that normally help prevent cancer by making proteins that keep cells from growing abnormally - increases risk. Since these gene mutations can be inherited, genetic counseling and testing is available for those women who elect to get tested to see if they also carry the mutation.
  • Personal history - Having breast cancer in one breast significantly increases your risk of developing it in the other breast.
  • Alcohol consumption - Risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed, starting with two alcoholic drinks daily.
  • Excess weight  - Risk increases if you gain weight during adolescence or after menopause or if you have more body fat around and above the waist.

Cancer Prevention

While nothing guarantees that you don't develop cancer, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk and stay healthy.

  • Make healthy food choices
    • Eat foods high in fiber -  try to increase the amount of fiber in your diet to between 20 and 30 grams daily. High-fiber foods include whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
    • Limit processed foods, sweets and salt.
    • Avoid foods high in saturated fats
    • Eat 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
    • Choose foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
    • Don't overeat.
    • Watch portion size and calories.
    • Limit sweets.
  • Limit alcohol consumption. Limit the amount of alcohol - wine, beer or mixed drinks - to less than one drink per day, or avoid it completely.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Engage in regular physical activity, preferably 45 to 60 minutes five days per week.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Get regular check-ups and talk to your doctor about regular cancer screenings.