Your Comprehensive Guide to Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is estimated to cause more than 40,000 deaths per year. Educate yourself with the essentials so you’re prepared.
The best defense against breast cancer is to know your risks, recognize changes early, and make necessary lifestyle changes to live a healthier life. More women today are surviving breast cancer than ever before, thanks to mammograms and earlier detection.
According to Brett T. Parkinson, MD, Medical Director of the Intermountain Medical Center Breast Care Center and Chairman of the Mammography Accreditation Program for the American College of Radiology, “Since 1990, the death rate from breast cancer has decreased by 35 percent. Much of this improvement is attributable to screening mammography.”
When should women begin getting annual mammograms?
Updated guidelines from the American Cancer Society recommend that women start getting annual mammograms at age 45. Doctors at Intermountain Healthcare, however, believe women should start earlier, at age 40.
"We agree with the new guidelines from the American Cancer Society and the United States Preventive Services Task Force that annual screening mammography, beginning at age 40, saves the most lives," said Parkinson. "However, we're concerned that the cancer society didn't make a strong recommendation to begin screening until age 45, and for women to transition to biennial exams after age 55."
What are the biggest risks and health benefits of mammograms? Read Dr. Parkinson’s full article about mammograms.
This technology helps surgeons find and remove cancerous areas with more precision.
Radioactive Seed Localization (RSL) uses a small, safe radioactive tracker—about the size of a mustard seed—that is placed inside breast tissue. Surgeons then use a gamma probe—a tool that identifies radioactive material—to find abnormal tissue in the breast.
RSL has increased accuracy of identifying cancerous areas, increased convenience for doctors and patients, and is similar in cost to alternative methods.
What you can do about breast cancer.
Aside from annual mammograms after age 40, it’s highly recommended that women do self-breast checks monthly. Lumps or tumors aren’t always cancerous. In fact, 75 to 80 percent are common benign lumps.
More testing is needed to identify the 20 to 25 percent that are diagnosed as cancerous. Be aware of painless lumps, changes in thickness, and swelling; ulcers or sores, dimples, and skin redness; scaliness, nipple changes, or discharge from the nipples.
If you have questions about breast cancer or find something unusual while performing a self-breast check, schedule an appointment with your doctor.
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