Secondary Prevention - Early Detection

EUROPA DONNA advocates for nationwide population-based mammography screening programmes conducted in accordance with the new European Breast Guidelines developed by the European Commission Initiative on Breast Cancer (ECIBC). Women between the ages of 50 and 69 should receive an invitation for mammography screening every two years.

The European Commission Initiative on Breast Cancer (ECIBC) is now under way and is being coordinated by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) under the auspices of the Directorate General for Health and Food Safety (DG Santé). ECIBC is supported by two working groups: Guidelines Development Group (GDG) and the Quality Assurance Scheme Development Group (QASDG). Both groups are composed of breast cancer experts, including patient advocates.

The ECIBC via the GDG is developing recommendations regarding screening and diagnosis, based on the female population at “average risk” or “low risk” of breast cancer. These are being published on the web hub dedicated to this purpose as they become available. Supplemental recommendations will be developed and updated as new evidence and priorities emerge.

On the web hub, each recommendation includes a section tailored to the needs of citizens and patients, health professionals, and policy makers.

Mammography is widely accepted as the best method to detect breast cancer early, before it becomes palpable. When carried out according to EU Guidelines it is the best form of early detection available today and the scientific evidence shows that it improves mortality rates from the disease.

Resources on Mammography Screening are available at:

ECIBC web hub

ECIBC country fact sheets

Cancer Screening in the European Union (2017). Report on the implementation of the Council Recommendation on cancer screening : Covering screening programme implementation and performance, such as participation rates and cancer detection rates with specific, comparable data for each country

Breast awareness

While research studies indicate that breast self-examination does not reduce deaths from breast cancer, women should be familiar with their breasts starting at an early age and seek medical advice if they detect any unusual changes.

Check for unusual changes

It is quite normal for most women to notice changes in their breasts during their monthly cycle – but only you know what is normal for you. It makes good sense to be Breast Aware and check your breasts periodically. You can take convenient opportunities such as bathing or dressing to become familiar with your breasts by looking at them and touching them. This will help in noticing any changes or abnormalities (usually a lump) sooner and you will increase your general awareness of what is changing in your body and know what to ask your doctor to look at.

Check your breast for:

  • A change in size or contour, or position of the nipple
  • Obvious lumps or thickening, puckering or dimpling of the skin
  • Veins which are more prominent than usual
  • Inflammation or rash on the breast
  • Blood or discharge from the nipple
  • New sensation – particularly if only in one breast

Talk to your doctor without delay if you notice anything unusual. Remember, 9 out of 10 lumps are harmless. The breast is often naturally lumpy as a result of normal glandular changes.

If you have a family history of breast cancer, talk to your physician and arrange regular and appropriate checkups including clinical exams.