Women in the United States get breast cancer more than any type of cancer except for skin cancer and breast cancer is second only to lung cancer as a cause of cancer death in women. A woman’s chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime is 1 out of 8, or approximately 13.3 percent. Breast cancer rarely occurs in men. Early detection and effective treatment is expected to reduce the number of women who die from breast cancer.

What are the risk factors for developing breast cancer?

Anything that increases your chance of developing a disease is called a risk factor. Risk factors for breast cancer include:

  • older age
  • early age at menarche (menstruation)
  • older age at first birth or never giving birth
  • a personal history of breast cancer or benign (non-cancer) breast disease
  • a mother or sister with breast cancer
  • treatment with radiation therapy to the breast/chest
  • hormone use (such as estrogen and progesterone)
  • drinking alcoholic beverages

What are screening tests for breast cancer?

Screening tests are used because they can be helpful in finding cancers early and decreasing the chance of dying from cancer. Three tests are commonly used to screen for breast cancer. The breast self-exam is an exam to check your own breast for lumps or anything else that seems unusual. It is typically recommended that it be performed monthly. Clinical breast exams are similar exams, but are performed by your doctor on a yearly basis. Mammography is the third commonly used screening test. A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast that might find tumors that are too small to feel on a breast examination. If a lump or abnormality is found on any of these screening tests, additional tests including further mammograms, ultrasound, MRI, needle aspiration or biopsy may need to be performed.

When should I get a mammogram?

Depending on your personal risk factors for developing breast cancer, your doctor will decide the best time to begin screening for breast cancer. In general, the National Cancer Institute recommends that women in their 40s and older should have mammograms every one to two years.

What are the symptoms of breast cancer? 

Breast lumps are detectable in 90 percent of patients with breast cancer and are the most common sign of cancer. It is important to also remember that many lumps in the breast are non-cancerous diseases of the breast. The typical breast cancer mass tends to be solitary, solid, hard, irregular (not smooth), non-movable and painless. Discharge (leaking fluid) through the nipple, skin changes and lumps in the under arm area or above the collar bone (enlarged lymph nodes) can also be signs of breast cancer. If you notice any of these changes in your breast, you should immediately be seen by your doctor.

How is breast cancer diagnosed? 

Breast cancers are frequently diagnosed in women without any symptoms with the above screening tests. Breast cancer is ultimately diagnosed by a pathologist (a doctor who specializes in the examination of tissue) after cells are obtained by biopsy (surgical removal) of the breast tissue.

Where can I find more information about breast cancer?

You may call toll-free to the National Cancer Institute (NCI)’s Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER or access the NCI online at www.cancer.gov for more information about breast cancer.

If you are 40 or older and have not had your yearly mammogram, call to schedule an appointment with your Baton Rouge Clinic physician today. It could save your life! (225) 769-4044

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