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Early Breast Cancer Detection Saves Lives
By Yetunde Adigun, MD
According to the American Cancer Society, when breast cancer is detected early and is still localized, which means it hasn’t spread outside the breast, the 5-year survival rate is 99%. In cases where breast cancer that’s been caught early has spread outside the breast to nearby structures or lymph nodes, the survival rate is 86%.
Regular Mammograms Are Your Best Defense
Mammograms are the best tool we have to detect breast cancer at its earliest stages. Both 2D and 3D mammograms take X-ray pictures of the breasts. A radiologist reviews these images for any abnormalities that may indicate an early sign of breast cancer.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that women with average risk should have a mammogram every year starting at age 45, and women 55 and older should have one every two years unless otherwise directed by their physician. Women at increased risk due to family history or past breast cancer should consult their doctor about the benefits and limitations of more frequent screening.
Breast Self-Exams Should Start at Age 20
Mammograms are effective and safe, but a small percentage of breast cancers can’t be detected by mammography, so women should be proactive when it comes to their breast health. Once a month, every woman aged 20 and older should perform a breast self-exam. If you know the look and feel of your breasts and you’re checking them monthly, then you're likely to notice any change.
The best time to check for changes is one week after your period. If you’re no longer having periods, perform the self-exam the same day each month. Look for lumps, changes in skin texture, unusual tenderness, or discharge.
If you do notice any changes, make an appointment with your primary care physician or OB/GYN as soon as possible so they can determine if a breast ultrasound or other diagnostics are needed.