Breast Cancer Screenings: What You Should Know

Monday, October 7, 2019

Breast Cancer Screening

Breast cancer is the most common invasive cancers in women and the second main cause of cancer deaths in women, after lung cancer. About 1 in 8 U.S. women (12 percent) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.

However, advances in screening and treatment have improved survival rates dramatically since 1989. Today, there are around 3.1 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S.  The chance of any woman dying from breast cancer is around 1 in 37, or 2.7 percent.  Also, a man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 883.

The key to breast cancer survival are breast cancer screenings. These screenings are critical when it comes to breast cancer prevention and early detection.

What are breast cancer screenings?

A screening looks for signs of a disease or condition before symptoms begin. The earlier cancer is caught, the better the chance of survival.

Who should be screened?

Women age 40 and older should receive annual mammograms. Women who are at high risk of breast cancer, such as those who have a family history of breast cancer, may receive screenings starting at an earlier age.

Your primary care provider or gynecologist can give you a referral to an imaging center that can perform a mammogram.

In Hampton Roads, mammograms are available at the following locations:

Bon Secours DePaul Medical Center
100 Kingsley Lane
Suite 306
Norfolk, VA 23510

Bon Secours Health Center at Harbour View
5838 Harbour View Blvd.
Suite 210 (Millie Lancaster Women’s Center)
Suffolk, VA 23435


A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast. It is a quick procedure, with appointments taking about an hour, and can be done without any special preparation.

Mammograms are used for preventative and diagnostic screenings for breast cancer. Preventative screenings are done regularly on women who have no symptoms to check for breast cancer before a tumor grows large enough to cause symptoms. By catching cancer earlier, it can be treated more effectively.

A diagnostic mammogram is an x-ray of the breast used to diagnose unusual breast changes, such as a lump, pain, nipple thickening or discharge, or a change in breast size or shape. If any of these changes are found, further testing is needed to verify whether it is a possible cancer or other breast disease.


A biopsy is done when a mammogram or other screening method finds something that might be breast cancer. During a biopsy, a doctor takes a small sample of tissue from the area that might be cancer and tests to see if it is cancer or something else.

Just having a biopsy does not mean you have cancer. A biopsy is simply the way that a cancer diagnosis is confirmed.

Genetic Testing

Some genes, or parts of your DNA, make it more likely you will get breast cancer. The most common genes are BRCA1 and BRCA2, which increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. If you have a strong family history of breast cancer or have close relatives with genes associated with breast cancer, you may want to get tested for these genes.

Talk to your health care provider and they can order genetic testing or refer you to a genetic counselor. It is preferred that the test be done through a laboratory that specializes in genetic testing and not through a direct-to-consumer company.

Schedule your mammogram today by going to

You can also schedule your routine mammogram with MyChart.

  1. Log in to your MyChart account
  2. Click on Schedule an Appointment
  3. Click on the box for Screening Mammography that is in your area and answer the pre-visit questions
  4. Follow the prompts to choose the exact location and appointment date/time you prefer, then click Make Appointment – it’s that easy!

If you don’t already have a MyChart account, there are two easy ways to sign up:

  1. Set up an account at your Bon Secours provider’s office
  2. Visit

You don’t need an activation code to set up a MyChart account. Simply select the link “Request Access Code” to verify patient information and activate your account.

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