The why and how of breast cancer screening
It’s easier to treat and beat cancer when you detect it early and before it spreads to other areas. That's why getting regular screenings is important.
Mammography is the gold standard for breast cancer screening. Columbus Community Hospital offers 3-D mammography, a system that detects tumors hidden by overlapping breast tissue and provides a more accurate diagnosis than standard 2-D digital mammography.
Research shows that women who get regular mammograms are more likely to find breast cancer early. They are also less likely to undergo aggressive treatments for their cancer, such as breast removal, and less likely to die from the disease.
Here are five tips to help you understand this important test.
1. Check your age. The risk of breast cancer increases with age. Experts consider you at average risk for the disease if you don't have a personal history of breast cancer or strong family history.*
Screening mammograms should begin by age 40 and be performed yearly thereafter. You should continue undergoing mammograms until your life expectancy due to other health issues is less than five years (determined by a discussion with your primary care doctor).
2. Know your risk. Some women may be at high risk for breast cancer. Factors that increase the risks of breast cancer include having:
3. Know all your testing options. For some women at high risk for breast cancer, doctors may recommend screening with a breast MRI or ultrasound in addition to a mammogram.
- A BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, which genetic testing can detect.
- A first-degree relative (parent, sibling or child) who's had breast cancer or has the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation.
- Radiation therapy to the chest between the ages of 10 and 30.
- Breasts with a lot of dense tissue.
Ultrasound is generally not considered a screening test, but is used to further characterize abnormalities seen on screening mammography or detected on physical exam.
4. Do your due diligence. Although research hasn't shown a clear benefit for self-breast exams, you should be aware of any change in the size or shape of your breast and any pain in a breast or nipple. Check for any lumps in your breasts or under your arm. If you notice any changes, talk to your doctor immediately.
5. Follow up. You should get the results of a mammogram from your doctor within 10 days. Don't assume no news is good news. Call your doctor's office to get your results.
Additional sources: American Society of Clinical Oncology; Office on Women's Health
To learn about 3-D mammography or schedule your mammogram with Columbus Community Hospital, visit columbushosp.org or call 402-562-3180.
*A significant family history is a woman who has a first-degree relative (mother daughter, sister) with premenopausal breast cancer or if you have had positive genetic screening for the BRCA genes. These women should begin screening 10 years before the age at which that family member had cancer.