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Breast Cancer Screening

Screening mammograms save lives.

Screening tests are used for the early and accurate detection of breast cancer in asymptomatic women. When diagnosed in its initial stages, breast cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer. Therefore, it is important for a woman to be screened regularly in the manner and frequency recommended by her clinical care provider.

Breast cancer screenings available at Moffitt

Knowing your breast cancer risk is step one. Experts say the use of mammograms and other types of screening radiology have reduced breast cancer mortality in the U.S. by nearly 40% since 1990. Moffitt takes pride in our fellowship-trained breast radiologists and our advanced breast cancer screening technology. The breast cancer screening tests most commonly used include:

  • Mammogram – The current gold standard in breast cancer screening. A mammogram consists of images of the breast acquired with low-dose breast X-rays that are interpreted by a radiologist. A typical screening mammogram consists of two X-ray images of each breast from two different angles – top to bottom and side to side. Screening mammography is a very effective cancer-screening tool.
  • Digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) – This type of mammogram takes multiple images of the breasts from many angles and is sometimes called "three dimensional (3D)." Tomosynthesis improves breast cancer detection.  
  • Breast MRI - instead of X-rays – A large magnet is used to produce detailed images of the breasts. When a breast MRI is added to mammography, more early cancers are found. 
  • Automated breast ultrasound system (ABUS) – This 3D cancer screening tool uses sound waves and their echoes to create computer images of breast tissue, and it’s useful for viewing fluid-filled cysts that can be hard to differentiate from suspicious masses on a mammogram. Breast ultrasound is especially helpful for screening women with dense breast tissue. However, it’s not usually a routine screening test for breast cancer. Breast ultrasound is more likely to be recommended when a lump is discovered or areas of concern appear on a mammogram, and a closer inspection is needed for an accurate diagnosis. Moffitt is one of only a few hospitals in Florida to use advanced ABUS technology to examine dense breast tissue.

Breast cancer radiologists study a patient's scan.

Breast cancer risk assessments

We’re laser-focused on helping our patients overcome cancer at any stage, and that includes providing services that allow at-risk patients to understand their vulnerability and take appropriate action. Because we’re convinced that prevention and early detection of cancer lead to the best outcomes, we offer a full slate of risk assessments, cancer screenings and counseling services. We’ll review our risk assessments here that are related to breast cancer, the second most common cancer in women after skin cancer.

Moffitt stands out from many other cancer screening providers because we evaluate breast cancer risk factors for every patient who comes to us for screening. This helps us identify women who have an elevated risk for breast cancer and could benefit from more intensive screening beyond an annual mammogram. 

Why do we do this? Statistics show that 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer at some point in her lifetime. Yet a recent survey indicated that only 9% of women getting breast cancer screenings could accurately estimate their risk of developing the disease, and about 40% had never discussed their personal risk with a healthcare provider.

It’s imperative that women and their physicians understand the importance of identifying specific risk factors for breast cancer so they can take action to prevent the disease or detect it early, when breast cancer is easier to treat. 

Moffitt nurse discussing a breast cancer risk assessment with a patient

What breast cancer risk factors do we assess?

When a patient receives a breast cancer screening at Moffitt, our specialists will provide an individualized risk assessment and guidance toward managing her specific breast cancer risk. Here are only some of the many risk factors we’ll evaluate:

Family history

Women with close family members who had breast cancer face a significantly higher risk of developing the disease. However, women and their healthcare providers tend to overestimate the importance of family history when calculating risk. In fact, the vast majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease. Moreover, having family members who had certain other types of cancer can also increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer. 


A patient’s risk for developing breast cancer increases with age, with most new cases diagnosed in women 50 and older. However, about 9% of new cases are found in women younger than 45.  

Reproductive history

Women who started their menstrual periods before age 12 and experienced menopause after age 55 have a higher risk for breast cancer because of their prolonged exposure to hormones.

Inherited gene mutations

Patients who inherited certain mutations in genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 are more prone to developing breast cancer.

Breast density

Women whose breasts have more connective tissue than fatty tissue are more likely to get breast cancer.

Prior radiation, drug or hormone therapy

Patients who had chest radiation therapy before age 30, took certain medications or had hormone therapy (including certain birth control pills) may have a higher breast cancer risk.


Being overweight after menopause elevates a woman’s risk for breast cancer, and other lifestyle factors may increase her risk as well.

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"At Moffitt, we encourage women to talk to our doctors about what screening tests may be best for them. Screening mammograms find breast cancers early, and early detection saves lives."

- Bethany Niell, Section Chief of Breast Imaging

The importance of breast cancer screenings

Regular screening is vital because it can help detect cancer before a lump may be noticeable. A clinical breast exam is a physical examination of the breasts and underarm area performed by a healthcare provider to detect lumps, masses or anything unusual. It is also still important for women to perform monthly self-exams. Self-exams help women become familiar with how their breasts normally look and feel. Any lumps or physical changes can then be brought to the attention of a healthcare professional.

A full range of the latest breast cancer screening techniques is available at Moffitt Cancer Center. Our screening services are complemented by diagnostic test services, advice, treatment and support from a multispecialty group of experts who are experienced in all aspects of cancer care. 

If you would like to request an appointment for any type of breast cancer screening at Moffitt, submit a new patient registration form or call 1-888-663-3488 to be connected with a cancer expert within a day. 

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