Know Your Breasts and Guidelines for Early Detection

We will talk a lot about early breast cancer detection on this blog. But why is it so important? Does it really make a difference when breast cancer is diagnosed?

Yes! Early detection is key to beating breast cancer because when cancer is diagnosed in its earliest stage—when it’s small and has not spread to other parts of the body—your chances of successful treatment and survival increase dramatically. But in order to “nip it in the bud,” both you and your doctor must keep close tabs on your breasts so you can take action at the first sign of trouble. This is done through self-breast exams, clinical breast exams, screening mammograms, and a general understanding of how your breasts normally look and feel. Knowledge of your family’s history of breast cancer is also vitally important.

Below are some helpful guidelines to keep your breasts in check and stay one step ahead of cancer.

Know Your Breasts

Perform monthly self-breast exams beginning at age 20, or, at the very least, take the time to become familiar with the way your breasts normally look and feel. If you notice something unusual, you’ll be able to recognize it right away and tell your doctor about it as soon as possible.

In the very early stages of breast cancer, the disease is often too small to detect by touch, meaning there may not be any symptoms. At this stage, a screening mammogram can reveal these abnormalities before you have any symptoms. But as the tumor grows, you may eventually be able to feel a lump or thickness.

Click here to download our self-breast exam instructions to print and hang on your doorknob or shower!

 

Add a Clinical Breast Exam to That Annual Check Up

A clinical breast exam (CBE) is recommended beginning at age 20, and is performed by a qualified healthcare provider (such as a physician, nurse, or other medical professional) as part of your regular check up. The provider will touch and gently press your breast tissue in circular and/or vertical patterns in search of lumps, thickenings, or other changes.

While breast exams are crucial, breast cancers can still develop with no signs or symptoms. That’s why mammograms are important, too.

 

Get a Screening Mammogram Every Year

An annual screening mammogram is generally recommended for all women age 40 and older. A mammogram is a screening tool that uses x-rays to create images of the breast. These images are used to detect early signs of breast cancer, like tumors or calcifications.

Mammography is the best available screening tool that we have for breast cancer. As we mentioned above, it can detect cancer at a very early stage, when it is too small to be felt during a physical exam. As such, mammograms play an extremely important role in breast cancer survival.

 

Don’t Forget Where You Came FromMammogramMachine

If anyone in your family—man or woman—has had cancer of the breast, ovaries, and/or prostate, your own risk of breast cancer may be higher than those without a family history. One immediate female relative with breast cancer can nearly double your own risk, and if more than one immediate relative has had it, your risk is about 3-4 times higher. Usually, the younger the relative was at the time of their diagnosis (younger than age 50), the greater the chance of getting breast cancer yourself. This may be the result of genetic factors, lifestyle, or other traits.

Talk to your doctor about your own family history and whether you require additional tests or if you should start screening at an earlier age. If you do have a strong family history, the American Cancer Society recommends the following guidelines, so that if breast cancer does develop, it is caught early when it is most treatable:

• A clinical breast exam every 6-12 months starting at age 25
• A mammogram every year starting at the age 5-10 years prior to the youngest breast cancer case in the family
• An MRI every year in combination with an annual mammogram starting at the age 5-10 years prior to the youngest breast cancer case in the family

Nobody wants to have cancer on their mind. But giving early detection the attention it deserves right now can help keep your mind and body one step ahead of breast cancer, and leave you in control of your future.

Posted in Breast Cancer Detection Guidelines, Screening Mammography

2 Responses to “Know Your Breasts and Guidelines for Early Detection”

  • Patricia says:

    I would like to have a mammogram, however, I do not have a provider – either a PCP or OBGYN. I am a healthy female and will use a minute clinic once every 3 years or so. I do keep tabs on my blood pressure and blood sugar. Can I get a mammogram w/o a doctor’s order? I can have the results sent to a doctor, as I work for one. I am in my 50′s and know I am past due. My last one was at age 45 and I do my monthly exams.

    • admin says:

      Thank you for your comment! To answer your question…you do need a physician in order to have a mammogram. The reason being, that someone will need to accept the report of your results from your mammogram, as well as coordinate any care that is recommended afterwards (if any). An order or referral for a screening mammogram is not needed – patients may schedule on their own!


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