By Danica Jordan, D.O. | Board certified, Family Medicine
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month – but the perfect time to discuss the importance of mammography is all the time. Because breast cancer is often detectable in its early stages when there’s a good chance for a cure, breast cancer screening is essential to early detection.
Breast cancer is a pervasive, highly publicized and very personal disease. Most everyone has a mother, sister, relative, or friend who has had an experience with breast cancer – a scare, a survival story, or the memory of a loved one who succumbed to it.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States. It is also one of the leading causes of cancer death among women of all races. In 2008 (the most recent year numbers are available), 210,203 women in the United States were diagnosed with breast cancer, and 40,589 women died from the disease.
The National Cancer Institute recommends that women age 40 or older have screening mammograms every 1 to 2 years. If a woman is at high risk for developing breast cancer, her doctor may recommend screening at a younger age, along with additional imaging studies.
Regular clinical breast exams and mammograms are the first line of defense for all adult women to monitor their breast health and follow up on any changes that their doctor may notice such as lumps, bumps, pain and tenderness, or unusual discharge. Certain changes in the breast tissue are normal and more common as women age, but any unusual symptoms should be shared with your doctor to make sure they are not cancer.
Though the value and diagnostic capabilities of breast self-exams (BSE) have been debated both in health care circles and the media, it’s agreed that a thorough knowledge of the normal look and feel of one’s breasts can help detect any obvious changes.