Breast Cancer

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According to the American Cancer Society, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Screenings help find cancer early, before you have any signs or symptoms, when it may be easier to treat. 

Finding breast cancer through early detection is the best defense in our fight against breast cancer.   

Being informed of the three components of early breast cancer detection may save your life or the life of those you love:

  • Mammography
  • Breast self-awareness
  • Clinical breast exams by your health care provider

Components of Early Breast Cancer Detection

The three components of early breast cancer detection are mammography, breast self-awareness and clinical breast exams by your health care provider. Learn more about each component by visiting the below tabs.

A screening mammogram looks for signs of breast cancer in women who do not have any breast symptoms.  A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray that allows radiologists to look for changes in breast tissue, even before a lump can be felt, detecting breast cancer early, when it’s easiest to treat.

Based on recommendations from the American College of Surgeons, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, the American College of Radiology and the Society of Breast Imaging, Riverside recommends the following screening guideline for women at average risk of breast cancer, and for those at high risk for breast cancer.

Women who are at average risk (without a personal or strong family history of breast cancer) should begin annual screening mammograms (consider tomosynthesis) beginning age 40.

Women who are at high risk for breast cancer based on certain factors should talk with their provider about what age to start annual mammograms, and if a breast MRI may be recommended in addition to the mammogram.

You may be considered high risk if you:

  • Have a personal or strong family history of breast cancer
  • Have a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation (based on having had genetic testing)
  • Have a first-degree relative (parent, brother, sister, or child) with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, and have not had genetic testing themselves
  • Had radiation therapy to the chest when they were between the ages of 10 and 30 years
  • Have Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Cowden syndrome, or Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome, or have first-degree relatives with one of these syndromes

Schedule a mammogram on MyChart or call our Central Scheduling Office Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

On the Peninsula, Williamsburg, Gloucester and Smithfield call 757-989-8830, option 2. On the Eastern Shore call 757-302-2102 option 2.


Being able to spot changes in your breasts is key for detecting breast cancer early.

The new recommendation is an idea called “breast self-awareness.” Several medical organizations, including the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, no longer encourage monthly breast self-exams for women at average risk of breast cancer. Instead, they teach this new, more mindful method for self-detection.

“Breast self-awareness is essentially learning what’s normal for your breasts,” says Dr. Elizabeth Lunsford with Riverside Health System. “When you know what your breasts normally look like or how they normally feel, then you’re more alert to any changes that might need to be checked by your health care provider.”

Once you know what’s normal for your breasts, be aware of any changes that concern you, such as: a lump, a dimple, thickened skin, nipple discharge, or a change in shape.

If you notice changes like these, call your health care provider right away.

Based on recommendations from the American College of Surgeons, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, the American College of Radiology and the Society of Breast Imaging, Riverside recommends women have a clinical breast exam every 3 years beginning at age 25, and yearly after age 40.

Breast MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) uses radio waves, strong magnets and a computer to create detailed images of the inside of the breast.

For women at high risk of developing breast cancer, a Breast MRI may be recommended to supplement their annual screening mammogram.  Breast MRI may also be used for women who have already been diagnosed with breast cancer to determine tumor size,  assist with surgical planning, as well as to detect other tumors in the breasts.

Breast MRI is not recommended for women at average risk of developing breast cancer, as it is more likely than mammography for “false positive” tests results , which may lead to additional testing and create anxiety unnecessarily.

Talk with your healthcare provider about your risk factors so together, you can determine the early detection strategy that is right for you.


Why get your mammogram at Riverside?

It matters where you go for a mammogram. “Choosing a diagnostic facility that is accredited by the American College of Radiology (ACR) for mammography matters”, says Riverside’s fellowship trained mammographer, Benjamin Pettus, M.D. 

The ACR is the leader in quality programs for breast imaging. Riverside is accredited by the ACR for screening mammography. Our ACR-accredited centers offer advanced screening and diagnostic services close to home.

The Riverside Diagnostic & Breast Imaging Center in Newport News, Williamsburg, and Gloucester are designated as a Breast Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology (ACR) due to its accreditation in all available forms of screening and diagnosis which are used to help detect breast cancer earlier when the chance for cure is greatest. 

In order to receive this designation, a Breast Center of Excellence must meet the following criteria:

  • Mammography by the ACR (or an FDA-approved state accrediting body)
  • Stereotactic Breast Biopsy by the ACR
  • Breast Ultrasound by the ACR (including the Ultrasound-Guided Breast Biopsy module)
  • Breast MRI by the ACR or within the ACR network

Advanced screening and diagnostic services close to home.

ACR Breast Center of Excellence

  • Riverside Diagnostic & Breast Imaging Center- Newport News
  • Riverside Diagnostic Center Williamsburg- Williamsburg
  • Riverside Walter Reed Hospital- Gloucester

ACR Accredited

  • Riverside Diagnostic Center Hampton- Hampton
  • Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital- Onancock

When at all possible, the radiologist should have the X-ray films from your previous — or at least most recent — mammograms (not just the written report) for comparison. This helps the radiologist find small changes and detect a cancer as early as possible. Because getting the X-ray films from previous mammograms can be a challenge, it is best to find a facility that you are comfortable with and plan to get your regular mammograms there each year. That way, your prior films are easily available.

There is help if you are uninsured and unable to afford your annual screening mammogram

If you are uninsured, unable to qualify for Medicaid or Medicare and unable to afford your annual screening mammogram, please contact our Cancer Outreach Office for assistance at 1-800-520-7006. Riverside is able to offer screening mammograms and cervical cancer screenings at no cost to eligible women through the grant support of the Every Woman’s Life Program (part of the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program - NBCCEDP), and the Riverside Health System Foundation.

If breast cancer is detected, women diagnosed through this program are automatically enrolled in Medicaid for their treatment. For more information on this program, or to see if you qualify, please call 1-800-520-7006.

Causes and risk factors

There are many different factors that impact an individual’s risk of breast cancer.  Some you can't do anything about such as your age, genes and gender. Other lifestyle choices, like drinking alcohol and watching your weight, where you have some measure of control may influence the risk of developing breast cancer.  Learn more about risk factors for breast cancer.

Satoya Taylor's Story, Breast Cancer Survivor

Stefanie Franklin's Story, Breast Cancer Survivor

Amy Lovejoy’s Story, Breast Cancer Survivor

Importance of Screening Mammograms with Dr. Benjamin Pettus

Breast Cancer Support Group brings comfort, support and friendship

Cancer Care Multidisciplinary Approach to Diagnosis

Kate's Story: Breast Cancer

Linda Easley Fulton’s Story, Breast Cancer Survivor

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