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All About Breast Cancer

All About Breast Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, the average risk of a woman in the U.S. developing breast cancer during her lifetime is about 12 percent. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, second only to lung cancer, and one of the most common diseases for women besides skin cancer. At this time, there are more than 3.1 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S.

All women are at risk for breast cancer (some men, too), and that risk increases with age. It also depends on your family history and the age of your first menstrual period. This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, join us in taking intentional steps to monitor your breast health, learn more about breast cancer, and look to preventative measures—like scheduling a mammogram—to stay healthy.

Learn the Basics About Breast Cancer

The most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass, although many types of breast cancer may not cause a lump at all. Lumps or masses form as cells in the breast and begin to grow out of control, forming tumors. Those tumors (either benign or malignant) can grow into surrounding tissues or spread to other areas of the body. Over time, those malignant or cancerous cells can invade healthy tissue, too. Stages of breast cancer are determined by how far the cancer cells have spread beyond the original tumor.

Breast cancer can start from different parts of the breast. Some start in the glands that make breast milk while others begin in additional tissues of the breast. Breast changes, nipple discharge, weight loss or gain with no known reason, feeling weak or unusually tired, or a thickening or lump on or under the skin are the most common symptoms of breast cancer. Most treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and other targeted therapies.

What Is a Breast Cancer Screening? When Do I Need a Mammogram?

Finding breast cancer early and getting extraordinary cancer treatment are the most important steps to prevent deaths from cancer. When found early (when the cancer cells are small and have yet to spread), it’s easier to treat. Screenings are tests and exams used to find disease in people who don’t have symptoms.

Oct. 18 is National Mammography Day. This national day, annually the third Friday in October, reminds us all that the best defense in the fight against breast cancer is early detection. Did you know mammograms are the most powerful, effective breast cancer detection tool, able to reduce breast cancer mortality in the U.S. by as much as 40 percent?

Mammograms are low-dose X-rays that help to find breast cancer. While they do not prevent breast cancer, mammograms use a machine to look only at breast tissue, evaluating lumps, pain, discharge, skin changes, and other abnormalities. It’s a fast procedure, typically only 20 minutes, and discomfort is minimal. It’s not scary, and only about two to four screenings of every 1,000 women lead to a breast cancer diagnosis.

The American Cancer Society generally recommends these screenings for women at average breast cancer risk:

  • Women between 40-44 years of age have the option to start screening with a mammogram every year.
  • Women ages 45-54 should get a mammogram every year.
  • Women ages 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every other year or continue to choose yearly mammograms. Screenings should continue as long as women are in good health.

Women who are at high risk for breast cancer, based on the following factors, should typically get an MRI and mammogram every year, starting around age 30:

  • Have a lifetime risk of breast cancer that’s 20-25 percent higher than average
  • Have a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation based on genetic testing
  • Have a first-degree relative (parent, brother, sister, or child) with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation and have not had genetic testing
  • Had radiation therapy to the chest between the ages of 10 and 30
  • Have Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Cowden syndrome, or Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome, or have first-degree relatives with one of these symptoms

Even if you have no breast health concerns, you should still get regular mammograms as directed by your physician. As you get older, your chances of having breast cancer increase, even after menopause. If you have no changes, lumps, or concerns with your breasts—and no history of breast cancer in your family—you still need a mammogram.

What to Expect During Your Mammogram

Before Your Exam:

  • Bring your past mammogram results with you and provide them to whoever will be looking at your new results, especially if you’ve been to the same imaging facility before.
  • Do not wear under-arm deodorant until after your mammogram. Many technologists, including those at Frederick Health, can supply you with deodorant after the exam if you wish.
  • Schedule your mammogram thoughtfully. It’s best to schedule the week after your menstrual period. Make sure your breasts aren’t tender or swollen that day. This helps to reduce any discomfort and get a better picture of your breast tissue.
  • Wear a two-piece outfit so you can remove your top easily. The technologist will give you a gown to wear during the exam.

During Your Exam:

  • When arriving at an Frederick Health Imaging Services location, you’ll be asked to take the Hughes/CRA Risk Assessment while seated in a private environment.
  • The technologist will ask you questions about your breast health and history.
  • For the best quality images, the mammography unit will compress your breast. You may experience discomfort for a very short time. The technologist will place a Mammo Pad on the machine to minimize any discomfort. Typically, two images of each breast are taken in each routine exam.
  • We offer the latest technology in breast imaging: 3D breast tomography. This technology captures images of each breast in 1mm layers and enables the radiologist to detect tumors better. If you want 3D tomography to be included in your screening mammogram, contact your insurance carrier to verify benefits before your exam.

After Your Exam:

  • A board-certified, on-site radiologist will interpret your exam, and printed results will be sent to your ordering physician. Your radiologist will determine if additional testing is needed, and if so, additional images can be obtained the same day.
  • An imaging navigator is available to assist you if a biopsy or other procedure is needed. Imaging navigators can provide education, obtain personal and family medical history, answer questions, and provide assistance in scheduling exams. If your genetic risk is high, the imaging navigator will meet with you based on your provider preferences to discuss the Screening and Prevention Program.
  • When leaving, you’ll also receive a hard copy of your mammogram results, your genetic risk score, and breast density notice (if you’ve been identified to have dense breasts).

Schedule Your Mammogram Today!

Join us in the fight against breast cancer—call to schedule your mammogram today. Frederick Health Imaging Services is the only provider of same-day breast imaging services in Frederick. Both our Rose Hill and Crestwood locations use the latest Hologic 3D mammography screening technologies. Call 240-566-3400 to book your appointment.