Breast Cancer Risk Reduction and Early Detection

Breast cancer risk reduction includes all the tools that help to lower your cancer risk, including detecting cancer in its early stages. A comprehensive risk reduction strategy includes lifestyle changes to optimize your health. It also involves screening tools for early detection.

Breast cancer early detection

Our goal is to catch breast cancer early when it’s easier to treat. Screening mammograms are among the best tools we have to catch cancer in its early stages.

What is a mammogram?

Mammograms are small-dose X-rays. During a mammogram, a specially trained technologist (mammographer) takes images of your breast from multiple angles. A radiologist views the results of your mammogram. Radiologists are doctors who specialize in looking at imaging tests such as X-rays for the purpose of detecting and diagnosing diseases.

We offer screening and diagnostic mammograms at our Breast Center. Our specialists have advanced training and years of experience interpreting mammograms and other types of imaging.

When should I start screening mammograms?

The American Cancer Society offers screening guidelines for women who have low to average breast cancer risk and for those who have higher risk. Typically, you are considered average risk if you do not have:

  • Personal history of breast cancer
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • A genetic mutation that is known to increase breast cancer risk (such as changes in the BRCA gene)
  • History of chest radiation before age 30

If you have average risk, experts recommend starting yearly mammograms at age 45, with the option to start at age 40 if your doctor recommends. After age 55, you can switch to getting mammograms every other year, if you have never had abnormal screening results.

Women with higher breast cancer risks may start screening mammograms earlier or they may need to have additional imaging along with yearly mammograms. Your healthcare provider can give you specific, personalized guidance about your breast cancer prevention and early detection strategy.

Early detection tools

At Adventist Health St. Helena, we use advanced techniques for early detection. We provide a range of screenings tools through our Breast Center. Imaging options include:

  • Automated breast ultrasound system (ABUS): With the ABUS, we can get a highly accurate, 3D view of your breast tissue. This imaging technique helps us see through dense breast tissue more clearly. We are the only center in the Napa Valley that offers this supplemental screening tool.
  • 3D mammograms: 3D mammograms (tomosynthesis) give us detailed, 3D images of your breast tissue. This technology allows us to see through dense breast tissue more clearly, leading to more accurate diagnoses. We use computer-aided detection (CAD) to search for abnormalities, such as changes in density or calcification. At the Breast Center, we have state-of-the-art mammography machines where women can sit comfortably during testing instead of lying face down.
  • Breast MRI: If needed, women may be referred to hospital services to complete a breast MRI. MRIs use magnets and radio waves to take images of the inside of your body. Women with low to average risk of breast cancer typically don’t need MRIs.

What happens if my screening mammogram shows a lump or abnormality?

Sometimes, routine screenings show irregular masses or other abnormalities in your breast. Finding a lump does not necessarily mean you have breast cancer. However, it is important to perform additional tests so that we can find out if a lump is cancerous right away. Find out more about the tests and tools we use for breast cancer diagnosis.

AHEAD Program for genetic screening

Studies have shown that around 10 percent of cancers are hereditary, meaning they are caused by genetic factors passed from one generation to the next. When it comes to breast cancer, certain factors such as gene mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes or a family history of breast cancer can affect your breast cancer risk.


Through the Adventist Health Early All-Around Detection (AHEAD) Program, we offer hereditary cancer syndrome testing. This free assessment asks you questions about your health and family history. Based on the results of the test, the AHEAD team can create a personalized cancer prevention plan based on your individual risks.

Contact us

To schedule a mammogram at the Breast Center at Adventist Health St. Helena, please call 707-963-6569.