This month, we celebrate the resilience and strength of the thousands of women and men who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. This month we also want to encourage the women in our lives to schedule a breast cancer screening to detect any early signs of breast cancer. Here are 5 tips for breast cancer screening and early detection:

1. Get a mammogram if you are over 40 years old.

Women should begin annual mammography screening at age 40 in order to offer the best chance of early detection.

2. Don’t put it off because of discomfort.

A mammogram should never be painful. Many women worry that the exam will be uncomfortable, and end up putting it off. To reduce discomfort, try to schedule the exam for after your monthly period, when the breast tissue tends to be less sensitive. You can even try taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory before your exam. If you experience any discomfort during your exam, tell the technician immediately so that they can work with you to make you more comfortable.

3. Don’t put if off because of fear.

Many women fear that their mammogram will find an abnormality, so they don’t schedule it at all. However, most abnormalities found during a mammogram are not cancer. In some cases, you may be called back for more tests to confirm that the area on the screening is normal. If you are called back for a follow-up exam, don’t worry yet. It may just be a precaution.

4. Learn how to perform a self-exam.

Ask your physician to show you how to perform a self-exam of your breasts. If you notice a change in your breasts, such as a lump or swelling, skin irritation or dimpling, talk to your health care provider.

5. Know your risk.

If you have family members who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, especially a close relative, and if they had breast cancer before reaching menopause, tell your doctor. Your risk may be higher than average. Some women may be recommended for annual MRI in addition to a screening mammogram.

Share these tips with the women in your life and encourage them to schedule their next mammogram!