Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Breast Cancer Screening

High Risk Program for Breast Cancer

The High Risk Program at Houston Methodist Cancer Center is offered to women who are at higher than average risk of developing breast cancer. The program provides these women with a comprehensive breast cancer risk assessment, regular clinical exams, nutrition and genetic counseling and, when appropriate, genetic testing. In addition, patients are counseled on options for more intensive surveillance and additional risk reduction.

Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Quiz

Learn more about your potential risks by taking our breast cancer risk assessment quiz.

Screening for Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women (next to lung cancer).

Risk Factors for Breast Cancer
Breast Self-Exam (BSE)
Clinical Breast Exam (CBE)

Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

The screenings your physician recommends will depend on your risk factors for developing breast cancer. Keep in mind that having one or more risk factors does not mean you will definitely get the disease, and having no risk factors does not mean you cannot get it.

Studies have linked several factors to the risk for breast cancer:

  • Being age 55 or older
  • An inherited mutation in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, or in certain other genes (Learn more about BRCA1 and BRCA2)
  • Personal or family history of breast cancer
  • Radiation exposure
  • Obesity
  • Beginning your period at a younger age
  • Having your first child at an older age
  • Beginning menopause at an older age
  • Post-menopausal hormone therapy
  • Consuming more than one alcoholic beverage per day

It’s important that both you and your doctor are aware of any factors that could increase your risk of developing breast cancer.

Breast Self-Exam (BSE)

One of the most basic screenings for breast cancer is one you can do yourself: a breast self exam. Checking your breasts on a regular basis lets you become familiar with how they normally look and feel, so that you’ll be able to notice any changes. Most doctors recommend that you start performing monthly BSEs starting in your 20s.

Doing a breast self-exam takes just a few minutes; for step-by-step instructions, you can

When doing a breast self-exam, be alert to any of the following changes:

  • A lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area
  • Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast
  • A change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin
  • An itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
  • Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
  • Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
  • New pain in one spot that doesn’t go away

If you notice any of the above signs, don’t panic: 8 out of 10 lumps found in breast self-exams are not cancerous. Do let your doctor know immediately so that he or she can schedule an appointment and/or tests for you.

Clinical Breast Exam (CBE)

A clinical breast exam should be a part of your routine annual well-woman checkup. Your doctor will usually ask you to lie down on the examining table and lift one arm over your head while he or she feels the breast for any abnormalities, such as a lump. The exam is not painful and takes just a few minutes.


Mammography is currently the best screening tool for finding breast cancer. It can find cancers at an early stage, when they are too small to be felt and most likely to respond to treatment.  

Houston Methodist Hospital recommend that women with an average risk of breast cancer begin annual mammograms at age 40. If you have additional risk factors—such as a strong family history of breast cancer—your physician may recommend mammograms beginning at an earlier age.

When you schedule your mammogram, you’ll be asked to avoid using deodorants, antiperspirants, perfumes, powders or lotions in the breast and underarm area on the day of the exam. Ingredients in these products can show up on mammograms and make the films harder to read.

  • When you arrive for your exam, you’ll be asked to undress from the waist up and be given a robe to wear while you wait for the technician.
  • When the technician is ready, you’ll be taken to a room with a large machine. The technician will ask you to slip one arm out of your robe and position the breast between two clear plates.
  • He or she will then step over to a computer screen ask you to hold your breath while the image is taken.
  • The technician will take two or three images per breast from different angles; you may have to re-take images that come out unclear.


Sometimes the pressure in a mammogram can be uncomfortable, but it only lasts for a few minutes. If you experience any pain, be sure to let your technician know.

The entire mammogram process usually takes about 15 minutes. Your doctor will receive the results in 2–3 days and call you with the outcome.

To learn more about breast cancer screenings at Houston Methodist , please call the Methodist Breast Center at 713.441.PINK (7465).

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