October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Let’s learn the facts:
- 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime
- In 2020, an estimated 276,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 48,530 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer
- 2,620 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in men in 2020. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 883.
- After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women
- A woman’s risk of breast cancer nearly doubles if she has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer
- 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer, due to genetic mutations that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations
- The most significant risk factors for breast cancer are sex (being a woman) and age (growing older)
How often should you do breast self-examinations?
Once a month, usually 2-3 days after your period has ended. The more regularly you perform them, the more aware you’ll be of your own anatomy making it easier to detect an abnormality. Self-examination combined with regular physical examinations can be a helpful screening tool. Don’t fret if you feel something abnormal, monitor for changes and/or call your doctor for follow-up.
When should you start getting mammograms?
According to the ACS (American Cancer Society), women may begin screening with mammography at age 40-44 and should get mammograms every year age 45-54. Once 55 and older, mammograms can be performed every other year.
According to the USPTF (United States Preventative Task Force), women should have biennial screening ages 50-74 but a significant family history my warrant screening in the 40s.
Most providers begin screenings at age 40 and will begin sooner if their patient has a significant family history.
What are some of the breast cancer screening and diagnostic tools?
Breast cancer related tools can be broken down into three different categories:
1. Screening tools: routine tools used to find cancer early in the general population
EX: Breast self-exam, mammogram, blood marker tests (family history),
2. Diagnostic tools: the next step in management/workup of suspected breast cancer to help gather information and guide decision-making and treatment
EX: Breast MRI, molecular breast imaging (scintimammography), ultrasound, biopsy, fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH)
3. Monitoring tools: after a confirmed diagnosis of breast cancer, these tools will be used to monitor treatment progress
EX: DEXA bones scan, CT scan, chest xray, breast MRI, PET scans
What are some of the blood marker tests?
CA 15.3, TRU-QUANT or CA 27.29, CA125, CEA, and circulating tumor cells.
If you do not have an OB-GYN and are a woman of reproductive age, I cannot implore you enough to find a provider. Routine physical exams help save lives, not to mention routine screenings like pap smears. Do some research, find a group you like, and make the call. Your body deserves routine care for the sake of your health, longevity, and overall quality of life.
This infographic is a great illustration of some abnormal breast changes that require follow-up with your doctor. Changes like thickness, dimpling, nipple crust, redness or warmth, new fluid production, skin sores, bumps, veins, retracted nipples, abnormal shape, orange-peel skin, and hard lumps.
Never be afraid to contact your doctor or medical provider if you think you’ve found something concerning. It never hurts to get checked out!