Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines

Routine care is the best way to keep you and your breasts healthy. Detecting breast cancer at its earliest stages is the main goal of routine breast care. This includes breast self-examination and screening mammograms. Routine care can also reveal benign conditions, such as fibrocystic breasts.

Breast health experts walk you through the whole process from the screening mammogram through any potential follow-up testing. Advances in mammography are credited with detecting 80% to 90% of breast cancers in women without symptoms.

Talk to your doctor to determine your risk and develop a plan for getting screened for breast cancer. Women at higher than average risk need annual mammograms and possibly other imaging, such as ultrasound or breast MRI. The American Cancer Society recommends the following guidelines:

  • Women with an average risk of breast cancer should undergo regular screening mammography starting at age 40. Some women may need to start screening early if they are at higher risk.
  • As long as your overall health is good, you should continue getting screening mammograms.

Know how your breasts normally feel. Contact your provider if you notice any changes or abnormalities in your breasts, including:

  • Change in the look or feel of the nipple or breast
  • Swelling of one or both breasts
  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin
  • Lump in the breast tissue
  • Nipple discharge
  • Nipple pulling inward
  • Localized pain
  • Nipple rash
  • Unusual warmth, redness or dark spots on the breast

Breast Cancer Risk Factors

Factors that may put you at high risk for breast cancer include: 

  • Race or ethnicity – White people develop breast cancer slightly more often than Black people. The risk of having breast cancer and dying from it is lower in people who are Hispanic, American Indian, or Asian.
  • Age – Most people with invasive cancer are older than age 55.
  • History of breast cancer – Having had cancer in one breast puts you at an increased risk of having it in the other breast. You are also at increased risk of having cancer in another part of the same breast.
  • Family history of breast cancer – Having a parent, sibling or child with breast cancer increases your risk.
  • Benign breast disease – Having certain benign breast conditions puts you at an increased risk for breast cancer. 
  • Early menstrual periods – Women whose periods began before age 12 have a slightly higher risk for breast cancer.
  • Late menopause – Women who begin menopause after age 55 are at a slightly higher risk.
  • Dense breast tissue – Women with dense breast tissue are at increased risk for breast cancer. 
  • Drinking alcohol – The more you drink, the higher your risk. Limit yourself to less than one drink per day.
  • Gene mutations – Certain inherited changes in genes are another risk factor. BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are the most common genes linked to breast cancer. BRCA changes are most common in women of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry.

Breast Cancer Screening Tests

While mammograms are not perfect, the American Cancer Society considers them the best tool for the early detection of cancer. A screening mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. Usually, two or three views (pictures) are taken of each breast.

Detecting breast cancer at its earliest stages is the primary goal of mammograms. They can also reveal benign conditions, such as fibrocystic breasts. 

OSF offers a full range of diagnostic tests including:

What to Expect

On the day of your mammogram, don't use deodorant, powder or lotions on your breasts and underarms.  A specially trained radiology technologist will do the breast imaging. 

The technologist has you stand next to the X-ray machine and two flat surfaces slowly squeeze together. They compress each breast for a few seconds to get the best pictures using the lowest amount of radiation possible. This compression may be uncomfortable but shouldn’t be painful. If you do have pain, ask the technologist to reposition you.

Timing your mammogram when your breasts are not tender is important. In premenopausal women, this is usually one week after your menstrual period. 

Get Started

You can self-schedule your screening mammogram online for a time that fits your busy life.

To get started, click on “Schedule Online” next to the location of your choice and follow the online prompts. You can also call to schedule your screening mammogram by calling the number for the location of your choice.

Location Phone Number Schedule
Alton Area (618) 474-4606 Schedule Online
Bloomington Area
Now offering Saturday appointments from 8 a.m. to noon.
(309) 661-5160 Schedule Online
Danville (217) 443-5273 Schedule Online
Escanaba Area (906) 786-3311 Schedule Online
Evergreen Park
OSF Little Company of Mary Medical Center
Hours 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Late hours Thursday until 7 p.m.
(708) 499-8550 Schedule Online
Galesburg (309) 344-3161
ext. 65454
Schedule Online
Kewanee (309) 852-7550 Schedule Online
Mendota (815) 538-7206 Schedule Online
Weekend appointments available every third Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon.
(309) 734-1446 Schedule Online
Morton (309) 683-5522 Schedule Online
Oak Lawn (708) 974-760 Schedule Online
Ottawa Area
Weekend appointments available
(815) 431-5471 Schedule Online
Peoria Area (309) 683-5522 Schedule Online
Walk-ins welcome at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
(309) 683-5522 Schedule Online
Pontiac Area (815) 842-4931 Schedule Online
Princeton (815) 876-2050  Schedule Online
Rockford Area
Walk-in screening mammograms are available at Rock Cut Crossing every weekday from Noon to 3 p.m., and OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center every weekday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
(815) 395-5444 Schedule Online
Streator (815) 673-4517 Schedule Online
Urbana Area (217) 337-2302 Schedule Online
Cancer Risk Assessment Hero

Breast cancer health risk assessment

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. This quick assessment estimates your five-year and lifetime breast cancer risk. It looks at your lifestyle, genetics and personal health history. This makes it easy to talk to your provider about maintaining a healthy lifestyle and when to start screenings.
Take the assessment


Breast Cancer Risk Blog
Prevention of breast cancer starts with awareness
In addition to getting screened, you can do things to control your breast cancer risk factors. 
Cancer Mammography Blog
Do I really need an annual screening mammogram?
A mammogram technologist addresses questions and concerns some women have about screening mammograms.
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Does it hurt to get a mammogram?
Don’t let fear and misinformation prevent you from getting your screening mammogram.

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Three-step Plan for Preventive Care
Breast cancer can't be prevented, but early detection of issues provides the best possibility of successful treatment.
What is breast self-examination?
Physically and visually examining yourself for changes in the breasts and underarm areas are important steps to take.
What is a mammogram?
Mammograms are used to detect breast disease in women who either experience problems or those who have no complaints.