Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Breast Cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissue of the breast. When breast cancer is detected early, at a localized stage, the survival rate is 98%. Early detection includes doing monthly self breast exams, scheduling regular clinical breast exams and mammograms.
How early should we start breast exams?
You should have a clinical breast exam every one to three years starting at age 20 and every year starting at age 40. A clinical breast exam may be recommended more frequently if you have a strong family history of breast cancer.
When should I schedule a clinical breast exam?
Breast exams are best performed soon after your menstrual period ends, because your breasts will not be as tender and swollen as during your period. This makes it easier to detect any unusual changes. If you have stopped menstruating, schedule the yearly exam on a day that’s easy for you to remember, such as your birthday.
What happens during a clinical breast exam?
Before your breast exam, your health care provider will ask you detailed questions about your health history, including your menstrual and pregnancy history. Questions might include what age you started menstruating, if you have children, and how old you were when your first child was born.
A thorough breast exam will be performed. For the exam, you undress from the waist up. Your health care provider will look at your breasts for changes in size, shape, or symmetry. Your provider may ask you to lift your arms over your head, put your hands on your hips or lean forward. He or she will examine your breasts for any skin changes including rashes, dimpling, or redness. This is a good time to learn how to do a breast self-exam if you don’t already know how.
As you lay on your back with your arms behind your head, your health care provider will examine your breasts with the pads of the fingers to detect lumps or other changes. The area under both arms will also be examined.
Your health care provider will gently press around your nipple to check for any discharge. If there is discharge, a sample may be collected for examination under a microscope.
What can I do to prevent breast cancer?
Doctors still are not certain how to prevent breast cancer. Regular aerobic exercise may offer some protection. Diet and nutrition plays a small but measurable part. Alcohol consumption has been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Women who drink two and a third to four and a half bottles of beer per day, two and a half to more than five and a half glasses of wine per day, or two to four shots of liquor per day, have a 41% increased incidence of breast cancer. So the recommendation is to limit alcohol consumption.
It’s important to keep in mind that dietary measures are not proven to overcome other risk factors for breast cancer. Women who adhere to a healthy diet should still take other preventive measures such as having regular mammograms.
Early detection and treatment is still the best strategy for a better cancer outcome. The following is a common strategy, but ask your doctor exactly what you should do to help prevent breast cancer or find it early:
- Check your breasts once a month, three to five days after your menstrual period ends. Have a thorough medical checkup twice a year, and have annual mammograms. Some experts recommend starting screening mammography at age 40, while others recommend beginning regular mammogram screening at age 50. Start mammograms earlier if you have a family history of breast cancer. Talk to your doctor about when you should have your first mammogram.
- If you use contraception, ask your doctor about the pros and cons ofbirth control pills.
- If you are near or in menopause, ask your doctor if you should use hormone replacement therapy to treat menopause symptoms. Studies suggest that hormone replacement, especially therapies with a combination of estrogens and progestins , can increase the risk of breast cancer. You and your doctor can make this decision based on your risk of breast cancer.
- If you are at high risk for breast cancer, certain drugs that block the effects of estrogen, such as tamoxifen and raloxifene, have been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer. The risks and benefits of using these medications should be discussed with your doctor.
All this information and more can be found on WebMD.
Low-cost or Free Mammograms
Most insurance companies and Medicare cover the cost of mammograms. And, in many parts of the U.S., low-cost or free mammograms are offered through national programs and community organizations.
- Komen Affiliates fund breast cancer education, screening and treatment projects for those who need it most. Find an Affiliate in your area to learn what resources are available. Or, call our breast care helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) to help find low-cost options in your area.
- National Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program provides access to breast cancer screening to low-income, uninsured and underinsured women.
- YWCA provides breast cancer education and screening to women who lack access to health services.
Each October, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, many imaging centers offer mammograms at reduced rates. For a list of certified centers, visit the FDA website (http://www.fda.gov/cdrh/mammography/certified.html).
Here our some screening dates for Toledo, Ohio:
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