Let’s Talk About Breast Cancer
Luckily, with today’s medical professionals and technology, we are able to screen for breast cancer more effectively than ever before. Getting your annual clinical exam with your primary care provider and an annual preventative mammogram can help detect early signs of breast cancer to help increase the success of the treatment.
Did you know that AFM has the only Mammogram services open on Saturdays? It’s true! We know that schedules can get pretty busy during the week, so we offer mammogram appointments not only Monday through Friday, but Saturdays as well, at our Horsetooth office.
It is also important to perform your own routine self-breast exams at home throughout the year, typically once a month. While this does not replace a yearly preventative mammogram and clinical breast exam, these home breast exams can help you become familiar with your body, so you are more able to notice a change and seek a professionals help if a change is noticed.
So what do we mean when we say symptoms? There are many changes you and your provider should look for when performing a breast examination. It is important to look for a change in how the breast or nipple feel, changes in the breast or nipple appearance or any nipple discharge in people who are not breastfeeding.
If you feel there have been any recent changes to your breasts or the surrounding areas, it’s important to see your primary care provider and get checked out.
Forms of Detection
What are the next steps to test any changes you have found? There are many ways to test and diagnose for breast cancer. Mammograms and clinical breast examinations are typically the first procedures performed to test for breast cancer. Mammograms take x-ray images of the breast tissue to look for any lumps that may not be detected by a self or clinical breast exam. There are two different types of mammograms: screening and diagnostic.
- Screening mammograms: These are used to screen patients who have no apparent symptoms of breast cancer. Screening mammograms should be performed once a year as a preventative measure starting at the recommended age of 40. There is also genetic screenings that test a patient’s genetics to see if they would benefit from getting mammograms before the recommended age. These are typically used if a patient has family history of breast cancer and the patient’s primary care provider thinks this would benefit the patient.
- Diagnostic Mammograms: These are used after concerning results on a screening mammogram come back or after symptoms alert the physician to check the tissue. Diagnostic mammograms provide a more detailed x-ray of the breast using specialized techniques.
A second opinion is always valued. Here are some other options to look at if you have received a positive test. These include ultrasound, MRI, breast biopsy and laboratory tests.
What happens after someone is diagnosed with breast cancer? There are various treatment options for a patient to choose from. However, treatment options can vary depending on many factors, such as, the stage of the disease, the results from the pathology test, whether the patient has gone through menopause, family history and the patient’s general health.
- Surgery: removing the tumor and nearby margins.
- Chemotherapy: combination of drugs to either destroy cancer cells or slow down the growth of cancer cells.
- Radiation Therapy: Uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. It affects the nearby skin or cells only in the part of the body that is being treated.
- Hormone Therapy: If the cancer cells have hormone receptors, hormone therapy drugs such as blockers or inhibitors that will help to destroy cancer cells by cutting off their supply of hormones.
- Targeted Therapy: Uses drugs that block the growth of breast cancer cells in specific ways, often reducing side effects.
- Nutrition and Physical Activity: It’s important for the patient to remember to take very good care of themselves before, during and after breast cancer treatment.
- Follow-Up Care: It is very important to have regular check-ups after treatment to help ensure that any changes in your health are noted and treated if needed.
Like any other medical concern, there are many myths about breast cancer that can interfere with a patient’s mindset about the issue.
- Finding a lump in your breast means you have breast cancer
- Only a small percentage of breast lumps turn out to be cancerous. However, if you find a lump, it’s very important that you see a physician for a clinical exam.
- Men do not get breast cancer
- It’s estimated that approximately 2,190 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer each year. It is just as important for men to check themselves periodically.
- A mammogram can cause the breast cancer to spread
- Breast compression while getting a mammogram cannot cause the cancer to spread. According to the National Cancer Institute, the benefits of a mammogram nearly always outweigh the potential harm from the radiation exposure since mammograms require a very small dose of radiation. Mammograms give off less radiation than your standard chest x-ray.
- “The radiation used in mammograms is such a small dose that the benefits of getting a mammogram really outweigh the alternative,” says Dr. Victoria McCarthy.
- If you have a family history of breast cancer, you are likely to develop breast cancer too.
- Statistically only 10% of individuals diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history of the disease.
- Breast cancer is contagious
- You cannot catch breast cancer or transfer is to someone else’s body.
- Consuming milk or dairy causes breast cancer
- Over years of studies, there is no link to dairy increasing the risk of breast cancer.
AFM is here for our patients. Whether a patient needs to have a preventive mammogram or further testing, we are here to support and to help patients through all stages of their life. It is important to raise awareness and work on preventative measures to help patients as early as possible. For more information on breast cancer, please visit nationalbreastcancer.org.