Breast Cancer Screening

Breast Health Is In Your Hands: ​​Preventive Care for Young Women

June 5, 2023
Young women & breast health

“Overall, about 11% of all breast cancers occur in women younger than 45, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). An estimated 26,393 women under 45 are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.”1 Women are being diagnosed with breast cancer at younger ages, even though current guidelines don’t recommend a mammogram screening until age 40.1 And “[unfortunately, more than 1,000 women under age 40 die from breast cancer every year]”1—which may be preventable with early detection measures.

These statistics are concerning, and we understand that the guidelines are frustrating. The good news is that you’re in control of YOU, and monitoring your breast health as a young woman is possible. So, if you’re younger than age 40, how do you advocate for yourself?

Steps You Can Take

  1. Become aware of your family cancer history so you can go over it with your doctor. Dr. Andrejeva-Wright (Yale Medicine) says to always keep your doctor updated over time as your history changes.
  2. Make sure you do a breast self-exam at least 4 times a year, but every month is even better. We’ll help guide you through the steps!
  3. Learn all about breast cancer risk factors, and find out which ones you may have. Knowledge is power, so knowing this information can save your life.

How to Perform a Breast Self-Exam

Self-examination is one of the best tools you have to advocate for your breast health. It’s extremely important because you need to know what your “normal” is so you’ll realize right away if something is different. After all, you know your breasts better than anyone. Either every month or at least every 3 months, follow this guide from the National Breast Cancer Foundation:2

  1. In the Shower
    a. With the pads of your 3 middle fingers, check your entire breast and armpit area, pressing down with light, medium, and firm pressure. You’ll want to look out for any lump, thickening, hardened knot, or any other breast changes.
  2. In Front of a Mirror
    a. Visually inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides.
    b. Raise your arms high overhead.
    c. Look for any changes in the contour, any swelling, or dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipples.
    d. Rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Left and right breasts will not exactly match—few women’s breasts do, so look for any dimpling, puckering, or changes, particularly on one side.
  3. Lying Down
    a. Did you know breast tissue actually spreads out evenly along the chest wall when you’re lying down? To start, place a pillow under your right shoulder and place your right arm behind your head.
    b. Using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast, gently covering the entire breast area and armpit using light, medium, and firm pressure.
    c. Squeeze the nipple to check for discharge and lumps.
    d. Repeat these steps for your left breast.

When You Notice Any Breast Changes

If you find a lump, schedule an appointment with your doctor right away. But don’t be too alarmed—8 out of 10 lumps are not cancerous.2 For more peace of mind, call your doctor whenever you have any concerns. Trust your instincts and be the most breast aware you can be!

We’re Here For You

When it’s time for your mammogram, our technology detects significantly more breast cancers compared to 2D mammography alone.3 And thanks to the SmartCurve® system, the Genius® 3D Mammography™ exam has curved paddles to fit your breasts better. In a study with over 1,000 women, 83% of those who self-reported high pain during regular mammograms found the SmartCurve® system to be more comfortable.4

Schedule your annual screening today—choose the Genius exam. Our greater screening accuracy means better breast cancer detection and a reduced chance of being called back for additional screenings.5-11

For more information about breast cancer in young women, to read real women’s stories of breast cancer under age 40, and find helpful resources to share with your friends, head to the CDC’s Bring Your Brave website. If you want to learn more about breast cancer, mammograms, early detection, and more, here’s a link to all of our blogs.

The content in this piece is for information purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice. Please contact your medical professional for specific advice regarding your health and treatment. This information may be relevant in the U.S. and other markets and is not intended as a product solicitation or promotion where such activities are prohibited. Because Hologic materials are distributed through websites, eBroadcasts and tradeshows, it is not always possible to control where such materials appear. For specific information on what products may be available in a particular country, please write to womenshealth@hologic.com.
The Genius® 3D MAMMOGRAPHY™ exam (a.k.a. Genius® exam) is acquired on the Hologic® 3D Mammography™ system and consists of a 2D and 3D image set, where the 2D image can be either an acquired 2D image or a 2D image generated from the 3D image set. The Genius exam is only available on the Hologic 3D Mammography system. Please consult your physician for a complete list of benefits and risks associated with mammography.
Hologic, 3D, 3D Mammography, Genius, SmartCurve system, and associated logos are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of Hologic, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries in the United States and/or other countries.
  • 1. Yale Medicine. Too Young to Screen: Breast Cancer in Younger Women. Accessed February 2023. https://www.yalemedicine.org/news/breast-cancer-younger-women#:~:text=%E2%80%9CWe%20recommend%20mammogram%20screening%20to,Andrejeva%2DWright.
    2. National Breast Cancer Foundation. Breast Self-Exam. Accessed February 2023. https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-self-exam/?gclid=CjwKCAiA_6yfBhBNEiwAkmXy5-bsB_fHdtJDmVWlC9JEU-0fSdDqbr4IEpp1xaI0VlqSg4bE1ioPbBoCs2gQAvD_BwE.
    3. Results from Friedewald, SM, et al. “Breast cancer screening using tomosynthesis in combination with digital mammography.” JAMA 311.24 (2014): 2499-2507; a multi-site (13), non-randomized, historical control study of 454,000 screening mammograms investigating the initial impact the introduction of the Hologic Selenia® Dimensions ® on screening outcomes. Individual results may vary. The study found an average 41% (95% CI: 20-65%) increase and that 1.2 (95% CI: 0.8-1.6) additional invasive breast cancers per 1000 screening exams were found in women receiving combined 2D FFDM and 3D™ mammograms acquired with the Hologic 3D Mammography™ System versus women receiving 2D FFDM
    mammograms only.
    4. Smith, A. SmartCurve™ Breast Stabilization System Patient Experience in Routine Clinical Use. Hologic WP-00141 Rev 001 (2/19).
    5. FDA submissions P080003, P080003/S001, P080003/S004, P080003/S005
    6. Friedewald SM, Rafferty EA, Rose SL, et al. Breast cancer screening using tomosynthesis in combination with digital mammography. JAMA. 2014 Jun 25;311(24):2499-507.
    7. Zuckerman SP, Conant EF, Keller BM, et al. Implementation of Synthesized Two- dimensional Mammography in a Population-based Digital Breast Tomosynthesis Screening Program. Radiology. 2016 Dec;281(3):730- 736.
    8. Skaane P, Bandos A, Eben EB, et al. Two-view digital breast tomosynthesis screening with synthetically reconstructed projection images: comparison with digital breast tomosynthesis with full-field digital mammographic images. Radiology. 2014 Jun;271(3):655-63.
    9. Bernardi D, Macaskill P, Pellegrini M, et. al. Breast cancer screening with tomosynthesis (3D mammography) with acquired or synthetic 2D mammography compared with 2D mammography alone (STORM-2): a population-based prospective study. Lancet Oncol. 2016 Aug;17(8):1105-13.
    10. McDonald ES, Oustimov A, Weinstein SP, et al. Effectiveness of Digital Breast Tomosynthesis Compared With Digital Mammography: Outcomes Analysis From 3 Years of Breast Cancer Screening. JAMA Oncol. 2016 Jun 1;2(6):737-43.
    11. Rafferty EA, Durand MA, Conant EF, et al. Breast Cancer Screening Using Tomosynthesis and Digital Mammography in Dense and Nondense Breasts. JAMA. 2016 Apr 26;315(16):1784-6.