Should I screen for breast cancer?

The purpose of breast cancer screening is to find women who have breast cancer before they have any symptoms, so that they can be offered earlier treatment. Mammography is widely used as a screening test for breast cancer.

Population-based breast cancer screening refers to breast cancer screening which is offered systematically to all individuals without symptom in a defined target group (e.g. certain age groups). At present, it is still not clear whether population-based breast cancer screening will bring more benefit than harm to general women population. Therefore, you should discuss with your doctor and fully understand the risks and benefits of screening before deciding to have the test.

However, screening may be beneficial for women who are at higher risk of developing breast cancer. Risk factors include:

  • being a carrier of certain gene (e.g. BRCA1 or BRCA2) mutations;
  • having family history of breast cancer / ovarian cancer; or
  • having personal risk factors (e.g. history of receiving radiation therapy to the chest before age 30 or history of breast cancer)

If you belong to one of the higher risk groups, you should seek advice from your doctor on whether you should be screened, the starting age and the frequency of screening.

It is important that all women, whether they are at average risk or higher risk of developing breast cancer, should be breast aware. They should pay attention to the early symptoms of breast cancer and visit their doctors promptly if these symptoms appear. For more information on breast awareness and prevention of breast cancer, please visit: http://s.fhs.gov.hk/pjnfv