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.
Research from the Mayo Clinic states that eight of every 10 breast lumps are not cancerous and, according to the American Cancer Society, the most common physical changes in the breasts – lumps, tenderness or discharge – are usually linked to benign conditions, i.e., conditions that do not lead to cancer. The most common diagnoses related to a breast lump, says the ACS, include fibroadenoma (a benign solid tumor), fibrocystic changes (benign breast changes), atypical hyperplasia (fast-growing abnormal cells), cysts (benign, fluid-filled sacs), or non-invasive cancers, such as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) – a cancer of the milk ducts.
A lump or cyst may be detected by a woman during a BSE or by her doctor during a clinical exam. A lump that is also tender and warm to the touch is likely a breast infection. A cyst is a round or an oval mass, can move when touched, and is full of fluid. Found in about one in three women between ages 35 and 50, cysts are diagnosed by a breast ultrasound or biopsy.
Most benign breast conditions do not raise your risk of developing breast cancer. Depending on your diagnosis, your doctor may wish to perform imaging tests such as an ultrasound or MRI, or more frequent mammograms to keep a close eye on your health.
Did you know that seven out of 10 women wear the incorrect bra size? Join Healthy Woman and Belk for a free bra fitting at their Weatherford store all day this Friday, March 15. Call 817-594-2295, ext. 245, to book your appointment today. To learn about more health education opportunities for women, join the Healthy Woman Program by visiting www.WeatherfordRegional.com/HealthyWoman.
For more information on various breast diseases and conditions, the anatomy of the breasts, other screening tools and more, visit www.WeatherfordRegional.com, choose the “Health Resources” tab and type “Breast Health” in the search box.
About the author
Danica Jordan, D.O. is a board-certified family medicine physician at Lone Star Family Care and a member of the medical staff at Weatherford Regional Medical Center. She provides care for men, women and children of all ages and is now accepting new patients. To schedule your appointment, call 817-489-7300 or visit LoneStarPhysicians.com.