Each year nearly 250,000 women are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and another 63,000 women will be diagnosed with CIS (carcinoma in situ), which is a non-invasive early form of breast cancer. Unfortunately nearly 40,000 women yearly succumb to the ravages of breast cancer.
Detection is the key
On the brighter side, 2.9 million breast cancer survivors are a testament to early detection being the key to survival. All women are at risk regardless of family history, and as you get older the risk becomes greater. Regular mammograms and clinical breast exams are the key to early detection.
Some types of cancers cannot be detected by the mammogram and so a clinical breast exam by your doctor is necessary, just as some forms of cancer cannot be detected by the clinical breast exam and so the mammogram is necessary. Having both of these procedures performed regularly gives the greatest chance of early detection.
How often should you get a breast exam or mammogram? Well, women over forty years of age should have the procedure performed every 1-2 years, more often if they have a history of breast cancer or a family history of breast cancer. Women under forty years of age with history of breast cancer or a family history of breast cancer should also have the examination every 1-2 years; women under forty with no history or family history of breast cancer should consult their physician to determine when to have an examination and the frequency of examination.
What to look for
While self examination is not recommended as the sole means of examination, it is advisable to perform regular self exams to become familiar with the way your breasts look and feel, this way if you notice anything out of the ordinary you can bring it to the attention of your physician. Some things to raise concern are;
Lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area
The breast swells, is warm, is red, or darkens
The breast changes in size of shape
The nipple becomes itchy, scaly with sores or rash
The breast has a pulling in of the nipple or other parts
Sudden onset of nipple discharge
Focused pain in one part that doesn”t recede
Where to get a mammogram
Your physician can give you a clinical breast exam as well as arrange for a mammogram, but for those with no regular physician this may pose more difficult. Some places offer discounted or even free mammograms, but there are so many it is impossible to list them all here. You will need to do a little research to find a location in your area, a quick search with a popular search engine yielded several results. Merely enter “free mammogram near (your city)” and you will see results that may assist you. Good luck and remember early detection is the key to survival.