Early detection is the key to curing breast cancer.
The American Cancer Society makes the following recommendations:
1. An annual MAMMOGRAM, starting between the ages of 35 and 40. After age 40 , annual mammography is recommended.
2. An annual breast examination by your physician or a qualified health care practitioner.
3. Do monthly BREAST SELF EXAMINATIONS.
Signs that you may have breast cancer
Skin changes such as dimpling inward of the skin
Discoloring of the areola
Assymetry of the breasts
Breast cancer is the second leading cancer in American women.
Breast cancer claims more than 43,000 American lives each year.
1 out of 8 women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime.
If breast cancer is detected in its earliest stages, 9 out of 10 women will survive.
Risk factors for breast cancer
Breast cancer can occur in both men and women but the incidence inwomen is much higher.
Family history of breast cancer.
Starting menstrual cycle before age 12.
Having a late menopause (after age 55).
Never having had children.
Having first child after age 30.
Previous history of breast cancer.
Additional factors which may increase the risk of breast cancer include:excessive alcohol intake, cigarette smoking, environmental factors , etc.
Self-examination for breasts
The American Cancer Society recommends that you perform a monthly Breast Self Examination.
There are several techniques that can be used for Self Examination. The following represents one technique which has been shown to be effective. This can be done laying down, sitting up, or in the shower. Take one arm and raise it above your head, with the other hand, take the tips of your fingers and gently press the area around the nipple, while making a circular motion that will move outward to the outer portion of the breast. (Feel for any lumps or anything that feels different from the month before.) This should extend to the axilla area. Then repeat this with the other breast.
You may want to examine yourself in the mirror to make sure that there is no abnormal skin changes such as dimpling or discoloration. Both breasts should appear relatively symetric.
If you should find an abnormality, notify you doctor immediately so that they can evaluate the problem and begin diagnostic testing.
This diagnostic procedure should be performed initially between the ages of 35 and 40. Beginning at age 40 annual mammography is recommended.
The mammographic exam uses low doses of radiation to visualize the breast tissue. Two views of each breast are obtained. The first position looks at the breast in a head to foot or cranial-caudal position, and the second position is from side to side or medial-lateral.
A compression paddle is used for the mammogram. This serves several purposes. It immobilizes the breast and compresses the breast tissue so that small nodules can be better seen and less radiation is required topenetrate the breast tissue. The mammogram is not extremely painful but may be uncomfortable for some women especially at certain times at their menstrual cycle. A woman may be able to decrease the discomfort of mammography by scheduling her exams during certain times of her menstrual cycle. Caffeine ingestion may also increase breast sensitivity. Some physicians advocate oral vitamin E to decrease breast sensitivity.
As with any x-rays examinations you should avoid having mammography if you are pregnant or breast feeding. If there is a problem with the breast that can not wait until after delivery, your physician may still recommend a mammogram, but this may be limited to just one breast. This will limit radiation exposure. In women who are breast feeding , it is preferable to wait at least 6 months after breast feeding has stopped.