In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, we asked one of our OB/GYN Physician Assistants, Kristen Layne, to share some important facts about breast cancer to help raise awareness and encourage women to take preventative measures.
- Breast cancer is often discovered by women through self-examinations rather than by their doctors. This occurs in almost half of all cases of breast cancer in women aged 50 years and older. In women younger than 50 years, more than 70% of breast cancer cases are detected through self-examination.
- A woman may be at high risk for breast cancer if she has certain risk factors. These risk factors include a family history of breast, ovarian, or other inherited types of cancer, BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations, chest radiation treatments at a young age, or a history of high-risk breast biopsy results.
- Mammography is the primary tool used to screen for breast cancer. Screenings are the most effective way to reduce the risk of breast cancer and increase the chances of survival.
- For women at average risk for breast cancer, a mammogram is recommended every 1-2 years, beginning at 40 years old. All women should start screening for breast cancer by the age of 50.
- For women at average risk for breast cancer, who do not have any symptoms, clinical breast exams are recommended every 1-3 years for women 25 to 39 years of age and every year for women 40 years of age and older.
- You should be examining your breasts regularly to know what is normal for your breasts and can detect any changes—even small ones—and report them to your OBGYN or other healthcare professional.
Although women should perform self-breast examinations regularly, mammography is an equally important tool for detecting breast abnormalities. Even if you’ve had a mammogram before, the anticipation before your appointment can be overwhelming. Try following these tips for your next mammogram for easier screening.
- Don’t wear deodorant. Many deodorants contain substances that can show up as white spots on your X-ray.
- Don’t schedule your appointment when your breasts are swollen. Mild breast swelling and discomfort are common in women from time to time and can be caused by many things (like Premenstrual Syndrome). However, scheduling your mammogram when you know your breasts will not be extra tender can reduce discomfort during the screening.
- Discuss any concerns with your doctor beforehand. If you think you’ve found an abnormality in your breast or are experiencing any unusual symptoms, let your doctor know before your screening.
Performing self-exams and having regular check-ups with your OB/GYN and Primary Care Doctor is an essential part of caring for the whole you. Due for an appointment? Schedule one here.