October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Did you know? Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death among women in the United States. One woman in eight will develop breast cancer in her lifetime if she lives to age 80. The frequency of breast cancer increases with age. A family history of breast cancer, particularly breast cancer in a woman’s mother, sister, or daughter, also increases the woman’s risk. While rare, breast cancer can develop in males. For every 100-150 women who get breast cancer, 1 man will get breast cancer.
How do I screen for breast cancer?
The earlier a breast cancer is detected, the better the chance of curing it with treatment. While earlier stages of cancer are usually symptomless, there are ways to screen for a suspected tumor in order to get timely diagnosis and treatment.Breast Self ExaminationMany breast cancers are found by women examining their own breasts. Beginning in their 20s, women should be aware of how their breasts normally look and feel. Any new breast changes should be reported to their doctor to receive a referral for further diagnostic tests if needed. Breast tenderness and generalized fullness before a period starts is common and is not a sign of cancer. When benign breast lumps are formed, they may be solitary or multiple. This is likely related to the normal hormonal effects on breast tissue.Clinical Breast Exam
Recommended every 3 years for women aged 20-39,
And every year for women aged 40 or over
This physical exam is performed by a doctor or other health care professional, often as a part of a woman’s annual check-up. The doctor will carefully examine the breasts and under the arms for anything that seems unusual.Mammography
Recommended every year for women aged 40 or over
Mammograms are x-rays of the breasts that helps detect an unsuspected, hidden cancer in women who are healthy and who have never had breast cancer. A mammogram can produce an image of the breast and any abnormality that may be too small to feel. Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) offers digital mammography, a technique that provides a more accurate diagnosis (detects 28% more cancer than traditional mammography).MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
Recommended for women aged 30-65 with proven breast cancer genes
MRI uses magnets, radio waves, and a computer to generate detailed pictures of areas inside the body. It is a screening test for women who have:
- Certain gene changes (BRCA1 or BRCA2)
- Family history (first-degree relative) with breast cancer
- Certain genetic syndromes (Li-Fraumeni or Cowden syndrome)
What should I do if I suspect that I have breast cancer?
If you notice anything abnormal, talk to your doctor for further evaluation. Usually breast changes are not cancer (up to 90% of all lumps are not cancer), but it is important to find out for sure. Breast cancer is curable when detected and treated early. Please do not hesitate to discuss any doubts or concerns with your health care providers.
What can I do to support Breast Cancer Awareness Month?
Show your support by visiting the following websites to learn more about local breast cancer awareness events!
National Breast Cancer Foundation
Susan G. Komen Puget Sound
http://www.komenpugetsound.org/ You may also learn more about breast cancer by reading and sharing the following useful resources.
American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/breastcancer.html Lakemont Pharmacy also provides Patient Resource Cancer Guide magazines free of charge. Be informed, and spread the words!