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Breast Cancer

Who is at risk of developing breast cancer?

Although there are some women who are at higher risk, the fact is all women are at risk for breast cancer. However, the risk increases greatly after the age of 40. In fact, two-thirds of breast cancers are found in women over the age of 50.

That's why it is so important to follow the three-step plan for preventive care as mentioned below.

1. Monthly breast self-examination.

2. Annual clinical examination by a physician or trained nurse.

3. Mammography according to your age and recommendation of your doctor

Can other breast abnormalities, such as cysts, be detected through breast self-exams and mammograms?

Although detecting breast cancer at its earliest stages is the main target of routine breast care, other benign conditions, such as fibrocystic breasts, are often discovered through routine care. And remember, most breast lumps are found to be benign.

At what age should a woman start doing monthly breast self-exams?

A woman should begin practicing breast self-examination early in her life as soon as she begins developing breasts. She should continue the practice throughout her life, even during pregnancy and after menopause. BSE should be done at the same time every month. An important benefit of doing regular BSEs is that it teaches women to know their breasts so that they recognize changes should one occur.

How often should women see a doctor for a professional examination?

A breast examination by a doctor trained to evaluate breast problems should be part of every woman's annual physical examination.

It is recommended to have clinical breast examination as follows:

Women, ages 20-39 - every three years.

Women, ages 40 and over - annually.

What is a Mammogram?

A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray of the breasts, performed to find any abnormalities or changes in the breast. It is one of the most common imaging techniques done today. A mammogram can detect cancer or other problems before a lump becomes large enough to be felt, as well as to assist in the diagnosis of other breast problems. More advanced imaging procedures, for difficult to diagnose cases, include stereotactic imaging and ultrasound.

Women ages 40 and over, should have a mammogram annually 

Are there any high risks for women developing breast cancer?

Breast cancer is a threat to every woman. Some have a family history of the disease or might be described as being in a high risk group but most of the women who get breast cancer are struck by the disease without prior conditions or unhealthy lifestyles.

If lumps are detected early, what are survival changes?

If the cancer is detected early, while the tumor is still small, it can often be removed with very good survival chances for the woman. Presently there are three methods that are widely used to detect breast cancer as early as possible.

1.The first is a breast self-exam performed by each woman once a month when it is convenient for her. Many cancers that are detected early are pointed out to a doctor by a patient who has discovered the lump during BSE. Regular breast self-exams help women establish a baseline of knowledge, which an understanding of how their breast feel normally. There may be quite a few harmless lumps discovered in the breast. The one to be suspicious of is an unusual or new mass or one that seems to be growing. Doctors can show women how to perform a BSE and what to look for during the exam.

2.The second method of early breast cancer detection is a doctor's exam of the breast by palpation to decide whether or not a lump is unusual or suspicious.

3.The third method is a mammogram or x-ray picture of the breast. The x-ray picture is a shadow image of all the structures in the breast. Cancerous growth has characteristic structures, like a collection of small spots in a ring or a star shaped structure, that radiologists are trained to recognize. Some of the cancers can not be felt during a self-exam or a doctor's exam but do show up as a shadow on the x-ray image.

Are women more at risk of developing breast cancer as they age?

Yes. The chances of getting cancer increase with a woman's age, and although there has been much talk in the media concerning new guidelines, it is generally recommended for women over forty to have a mammogram every other year and women over fifty to have a mammogram every year. Just like the palpation by the woman or her doctor, the mammogram is most useful if there is a baseline of a normal view to compare the x-ray with. Mammograms are considered to be very successful in detecting cancers. However, they are not guaranteed 100% to find every cancer.

What happens when a suspicious lump is detected on a mammogram?

The doctor and the patient together make a decision to either proceed with a needle biopsy – a procedure where a small piece of the lump is excised for further examination and identification by a Pathologist in a laboratory. Their second choice is to do another mammogram in about six months to see if the lump has grown any. Having a suspicious lump can be frightening to any woman. A needle biopsy offers a fast answer to whether a lump is benign or not, but is in invasive, somewhat painful and leaves scars in the breast that make future mammograms more difficult to interpret.

Does the size or shape of a woman’s breast make a difference during mammography?

Some women have what are called radiodense breasts and x-rays do not transmit through them very well. Radiodense breasts cause a shadow to be created in the x-ray image. The problem this creates, is that cancer structures may be hiding beneath these shadow.

Do I need a mammogram if I have breast implants?

Yes, women with breast implants should follow the same recommended screening mammograms as women without breast implants.

What causes cancer to develop in some breast and not in others?

Doctors aren't really sure what causes cancer to develop in breast tissue. They have a number of theories and suspect that a combination of lifestyle, environmental, and genetic factors can increase a woman's risk for the disease.

Are women with a "family history" of breast cancer at higher risk?

Women with a personal or family history of breast cancer are definitely at higher risk for breast cancer. If you have already had breast cancer, you are more likely to develop it again in the opposite breast. If your mother or sister has or had breast cancer, especially if they developed it at a young age, you are at higher risk for developing it yourself.

Why is breast cancer so feared?

The discovery of a lump in the breast is often one of the most frightening and feared health problems a woman faces. In part this is because breast cancer is the most common cancer to afflict women. It is also feared because it can be disfiguring and, of course, life-threatenin

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