Most likely, there is someone in your life who has been affected by breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, except for skin cancers. About 1 in 8 (12 percent) women in the US will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. The American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 226,870 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women and approximately 39,510 women will die from breast cancer in 2012.
There is an effective screening method for the early detection of breast cancer. Regular mammograms are the most effective tool for helping detect breast cancer early, sometimes even before anything can be felt during a physical exam. With routine screenings, breast cancer can be found in its early stages, when it can be more easily and successfully treated.
What is breast cancer and what are the risks?
Breast cancer is an abnormal overgrowth of the cells in the breast that leads to a malignant tumor. Some risks for breast cancer include being 50 years of age or older, prior personal history of breast cancer, family history of breast cancer, genetic factors and gynecological history.
Who should be screened?
Every woman more than 40 years of age or who has risk factors for breast cancer should be screened.
What is the screening process?
The screening process should include annual visits to a physician for yearly breast exams and to discuss any questions or concerns. A physician may recommend monthly self–breast exams as well. You should have your first mammogram at 40 years of age and then again every one to two years. After age 50, you should have yearly mammograms. Make an appointment to speak with your doctor if you have symptoms, breast changes or a family history of breast cancer, as earlier testing may be recommended.
What is a mammogram?
A mammogram is a special type of X-ray test of the breasts. It looks for early signs of breast cancer or other abnormalities. Digital mammography, which provides more detailed views of the breast, is recommended.
What if the mammogram results are abnormal?
An abnormal mammogram does not automatically mean that breast cancer has been found. Make sure to follow up with a doctor, who will recommend other tests or exams (for example, MRIs, ultrasounds or biopsies) and may refer you to a breast specialist or surgeon. These additional tests or exams will need to be completed before a definite diagnosis can be made.
Are all breast changes bad?
No. Breast changes may be related to normal variances, hormonal changes, infections or benign lumps. You should see your doctor if you notice breast changes such as lumps, swelling, warmth, redness, dimpling or puckering, itching, rash, sudden nipple discharge or bleeding, persistent pain or changes in size or shape.
Where can I get a mammogram?
This information is provided by Steward Medical Group Women’s Health Associates as general information only. Please note, this information should not substitute a medical checkup or consultation with a physician.
For more information, or to schedule an appointment, please contact us.