WHEN IT COMES to battling breast cancer, early detection and proactive solutions are key. Thanks to diagnostic technologies and increased education about finding breast cancer in its earliest stages, healthcare providers and patients are teaming up to find breast cancer when the disease is most responsive to treatment. There are approximately 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
“Screening mammography has led to early diagnosis of cancer, resulting in fewer breast cancer deaths,” says Snehal Thakkar, M.D., oncologist with Summit Healthcare Regional Medical Center. “This advantage begins in women at age 40, with the largest impact occurring in women between the ages of 60 and 69.”
“I often recommend beginning annual screenings at age 40, but if there is a strong family history, like a first-degree relative having breast cancer, I may recommend that screenings begin earlier,” says Benjamin Richardson, D.O., obstetrician/gynecologist with Summit Healthcare. “My recommendation is that a patient should start screening at age 30 if a breast cancer diagnosis was made in a parent or sibling. There is so much value in detecting the disease early.”
To gather the most accurate, helpful information, the board-certified radiologists and technologists with the Women’s Imaging team at Summit Healthcare offer a wide variety of imaging services, including:
breast magnetic resonance imaging
stereotactic breast biopsy
ultrasound-guided breast biopsy
3-D mammography technology to examine dense breast tissue [/icon_list]
“Thanks to today’s imaging modalities, particularly 3-D mammography, we are finding breast cancers as early as possible and seeing much better outcomes,” says Mary Ann Andresen, RT (R)(M)(BD), Women’s Imaging Lead Mammographer. “The ‘C word’ is scary, but it really is a treatable condition. Don’t hesitate to get something that is unusual checked by your healthcare provider. Listen to that inner voice.”
AN ENVIRONMENT OF CALM
[pullquote type=”right” style=”color: #FF69B4″]Free breast cancer screenings are available October 8 and 22 at Summit Healthcare Regional Medical Center for women who are uninsured or underinsured.[/pullquote]
The Women’s Imaging facility at Summit Healthcare is an inviting space with lots of natural light, designed to make families feel comfortable. When an individual comes in for a screening, such as a mammogram, a member of the healthcare team will explain the procedure and work with the patient to dispel any anxieties and fears.
“Once all of the information is available, including pathology, imaging, and lab work, a detailed plan can be formulated,” says Dr. Thakkar. “This plan takes into consideration all modalities of treatment, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and hormonal modulation, as well as patient wishes.”
If you notice any of the following during a monthly breast self-exam, consult a healthcare provider:
dimpling or retraction of skin
discharge from the nipple that is bloody or milky
irregularities of the nipple, such as a change in direction
“These signs don’t necessarily indicate cancer,” Dr. Richardson says. “But they should be evaluated by a doctor.”
CONTROL WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL
Some risk factors for breast cancer are within your control. Reduce your risk with these tips.
If you smoke, take steps to quit. Smoking may be related to higher risk of breast cancer in women. Smoking may also raise the risk of treatment-related complications, such as blood clots following surgery or lung damage following radiation therapy.
Manage your weight. Exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Obesity, especially after menopause, may increase the risk of breast cancer.
Consume alcohol in moderation. According to the American Cancer Society, women should have no more than one alcoholic beverage per day.
UNDERSTAND OTHER RISK FACTORS
There are many other risk factors you can’t control. Talk to your doctor about these factors that may increase the likelihood of breast cancer.
Genetics. Between 5 and 10 percent of breast cancers may develop as a result of inherited gene mutations, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2.
Family history. Having a first-degree relative—that is, a parent, sibling or child—with breast cancer increases your risk.
Getting older. Invasive breast cancers are found most frequently in women age 55 and older.