All women should start conducting monthly breast self-exams when they are in their 20s. Clinical breast exams are usually performed by your doctor every two to three years while you are in your 20s - 30s, and every year when you are over 40 years of age. (This is assuming you keep your yearly appointments with your OB-GYN for your Pap smears and pelvic exams.) The recommendation for yearly mammograms usually begins when a woman turns 40, largely because younger breasts are usually too dense and fibrous to reveal much during a mammogram. Always follow your doctor's recommendations for regular screening. You should never be too busy to keep an appointment that could save your breasts, or your life. If you are younger than 40, and concerned about a high risk for breast cancer, talk to your doctor about the possibility of alternative breast cancer detection methods, like MRIs, that can take the place of mammograms until 40 years of age.
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