Understanding Breast Cancer
Finding breast cancer at the earliest possible stage greatly increases your chance of a complete recovery. Breast cancer is often asymptomatic and undetectable on a physical exam until the cancer is in advanced stages. Screening mammography is an essential test to detect breast cancer before symptoms arise. In fact, breast cancer deaths decrease by 40% in women who receive a yearly screening mammogram, compared to women who do not.
In honor of October being breast cancer awareness month, Dr. Scot Ackerman joined WJXT Talking Health to discuss the importance of self-breast examinations, screening, and the different mammography options offered and which may be best for you.
Traditional mammography is still considered to be the gold standard of screening, and can be used in combination with the following:
- Breast Biopsy
- Breast Ultrasound
- 2D Mammogram
- 3D Mammogram
- Contrast-Enhanced Mammography (CEM)- CEM is similar to a traditional mammogram, but delivers higher sensitivity and image clarity by utilizing a contrast-dye medium, which is a substance that is injected into the bloodstream and highlights any abnormalities in the breast tissue
While all mammography options are beneficial, some patients have risk factors such as age, family history, personal history, and dense breast tissue, and may benefit from a specific type of mammogram.
Who should get a 3D mammogram?
- Patients with a high lifetime risk for breast cancer would benefit from a 3D mammogram
Who should get a contrast-enhanced mammogram?
- Patients with a personal and/or family history of breast cancer, dense breast tissue, and palpable breast lumps would benefit from a 3D mammogram
Family history often impacts how frequently patients should get a mammogram. If you are unsure of your family history, ask your family members the following questions:
- Have they gone through genetic testing or counseling?
- Do they have BRCA1, BRCA2, or any other genetic mutation?
Another method of screening is self-breast examination. Women should start self-breast exams at age 20, and perform these monthly. It is important to consider the following factors when performing self-breast examinations.
- If still menstruating- perform self-breast exam 7-10 days after your menstrual cycle ends (mid-cycle) to avoid increased breast tenderness and swelling
- If no longer menstruating- pick the same day every month and look for any changes from the previous month’s exam
- If at average risk of breast cancer- start at age 20 with self-exams, and every 1-3 years get a clinical exam performed by a physician
- If at high risk of breast cancer- start at age 20 with self-exams, get a clinical exam every six months starting 10 years before the age at which the youngest family member was diagnosed
Monthly self-exams are encouraged as 40% of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so it is important to know what your breasts feel like so you can inform your healthcare provider if something does not feel right.
Click here to view the full interview with Dr. Scot Ackerman and WJXT.
Click here to learn more about breast cancer screening and treatment options offered at Ackerman Cancer Center.