Breast Cancer Basics Tools You Need for Early Detection Since mammography became routine in the past 20 years, the mortality rate from breast cancer has decreased at least 30 percent, according to studies. Still, some women are not going for their annual mammograms or doing simple breast self-exams. These are among the most effective tools a woman has to catch the disease early. Breast awareness does not have to be complicated. Avice O’Connell, M.D., Director of UR Medicine Breast Imaging, says to remember a few simple steps: Check for changes in your breasts with a self-exam once a month; get an annual breast exam by your physician; and go for your annual mammogram, starting at age 40. Above all, stop worrying about your breast health and take action to protect it. Related Video Mammography Demonstration What will happen during your mammogram? A mammography technologist with UR Medicine Breast Imaging explains.