Last week’s article looked at the statistics surrounding breast cancer and referenced the importance of routine annual mammography. While many experts believe that having an annual mammogram is still the best way to detect breast cancer early in women ages 40 and older, that opinion is not unanimously held.
In November 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued new recommendations for breast cancer screening – recommending that women ages 50 to 74 have screening mammograms every other year instead of annually. This change has sparked much debate among experts on both sides of the issue.
This debate may leave you with more questions than answers. At what age should you begin regular mammography screening? How regularly do you need a mammogram? The bottom line is that you should talk with your physician in making the decision about when to start getting mammograms and how often to have them. It’s important for you and your physician to evaluate your personal risk factors for breast cancer in making this important decision.
Knowledge is power, so as you learn more about breast cancer, take note of these commonly-asked questions. While you should always seek the advice of a physician if you have questions or concerns, this information covers some of the basics if breast cancer.
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is a type of cancer where cells in the breast tissue divide and grow without the usual controls on cell death and cell division.
What are the signs of breast cancer?
The signs of breast cancer are not the same for all women. In fact, some women have no signs that they can see. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should see a doctor right away:
• A lump, hard knot or thickening
• Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening
• Change in breast size or shape
• Dimpling or puckering of the skin
• Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
• Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
• Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
• New pain in one spot
What causes breast cancer?
It's a question women want a straight answer to. At the present time, scientists believe that breast cancer is caused by a combination of both known and unknown factors including genetics (such as family history of breast cancer), lifestyle choices (such as diet and alcohol use) and reproductive factors (such as age at onset of menses and menopause).
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a perfect time for women to talk with their physicians about personal risk factors for developing breast cancer, as well as when and how often to have a mammogram. Bonner General Hospital is pleased to offer digital mammography to our community. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please call 265.1142.