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Early breast cancer detection methods

LINKIn the early stages, breast cancer does not cause any symptoms or pain, which is why it often goes unnoticed for a long time. Early detection significantly improves the chances of medical treatment being successful. The following methods can be used for detecting early-stage breast cancer:


Given that you are the person most familiar with your own body, self-examination of the breasts on a regular basis is an important means of early detection. Around 80 per cent of all women who develop breast cancer discover the lump in their breast via this method. On reaching the age of 30 at the latest, you should examine your breasts once a month. The optimal time is eight days following the end of your period, as the breast is then softer than during menstruation.

For information on how to perform self-examination correctly, you should consult your doctor. Alternatively, there are also illustrated brochures and instruction leaflets available explaining self-examination techniques.

Clinical examination by a doctor

Women aged 30 and over should consult their doctor once a year for a breast cancer check-up. The examination involves careful palpation of the breasts and lymph nodes in the armpits as well as a close examination of the skin.

Mammogram screening

A mammogram is an X-ray examination of the breast specifically intended for detecting early-stage breast cancer. This method makes it possible to detect lumps measuring less than one centimetre which are not detectable by palpation.

If you have an increased risk of breast cancer, it may be advisable to have mammograms more frequently and to start at an earlier age. The decision about the timing and frequency of examinations should be taken by your doctor based on your individual risk profile.

The provides further information about mammogram screening and examination options in your area. Questions about screening and breast cancer in general can be addressed to the Information Service of the German Cancer Research Centre (Informationsdienst des Deutschen Krebsforschungszentrums ─ DKFZ); the phone line is open daily from 8 am to 8 pm under the following number: 0800 4203040.

Breast ultrasound scan

Breast ultrasound scans are not used as a routine method of early detection, but primarily as a means of verifying unclear mammogram results. This examination involves the use of ultrasound waves instead of X-rays. The results of ultrasound scans are particularly conclusive when the breast contains large amounts of connective tissue, i.e. before onset of the menopause. The ultrasound method is an additional diagnostic tool predominantly used for women in this age group.

Recommendations for the early detection of breast cancer in women with no increased risk

The timing and frequency of early detection examinations and the most suitable methods to use are primarily dependent on the age of the woman. The following chart provides a brief overview. You should contact your doctor to discuss your own early detection programme.


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