Learning the Importance of Breast Cancer Screenings

Breast Cancer Awareness Month begins yearly on October 1. The annual campaign aims to bring awareness to the impacts of the disease, increase breast health education, and promote potentially lifesaving self-exams and screening.

Breast cancer affects 1 in 8 women in the United States. When cells in your breast grow and divide uncontrollably, they may create a cancerous tumor. The most common kinds of breast cancer are Invasive Ductal Carcinoma and Invasive Lobular Carcinoma. In Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, the cancer cells begin in the ducts, growing into other parts of the breast tissue and possibly metastasizing to other parts of the body. With Invasive Lobular Carcinoma, cancer cells begin in the breast lobules, spreading to surrounding breast tissues. There also is a very early (noninvasive) breast cancer called Ductal Carcinomain Situ (DCIS) which is where the cancer cells are only inside the milk ducts and have not spread into the nearby breast tissue.

The Importance of Breast Health

Breast health is important because breast cancer is very treatable when detected early. When tumors are still small and have not spread to the lymph nodes, the five-year relative survival rate is 99 percent. In distant breast cancer or stage IV breast cancer, where the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, the five-year relative survival rate drops to 28 percent.

Certain factors increase your risk for breast cancer, such as age, genetic mutations, reproductive history, having dense breasts, family history of breast cancer, and previous treatment using radiation therapy. However, there are things you can do to boost breast health and detect breast cancer early, such as regular physical activity, avoiding alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a well-balanced diet, and performing self-exams.

Performing Regular Self-Exams

One key way to maintain breast health and detect cancer early is through regular breast self-exams. Through these exams, you become familiar with your breasts, allowing you to notice changes and abnormalities. Breast lumps or spots that weren’t there before may be signs of infection or breast cancer.

Health care experts recommend performing breast self-exams once a month on the same day. If you’re still menstruating, perform the self-exam after your period. If you’re no longer menstruating or have an irregular cycle, pick a day each month.

A breast self-exam involves a visual inspection and manual inspection. You’re looking for changes in breast shape/nipples, or dimpling in the skin. Perform manual inspections while standing up and while lying down. Look for lumps, thick spots, or hard knots. Gently squeeze the nipple to check for discharge.

Don’t panic when you find something unusual. Lumps or other changes don’t immediately mean you have breast cancer. If you find some worrisome changes in your breasts, you should let your healthcare provider know. After a breast exam, your doctor may recommend other tests such as a mammogram, breast ultrasound, breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or biopsy. 

What is Breast Cancer Screening?

Healthcare professionals recommend breast cancer screening for women of a certain age before there are signs or symptoms of the disease. The most common forms of breast cancer screening are mammograms.

If you are between the ages of 40 to 49 years old and have not felt any abnormal changes in your breasts, talk to your healthcare provider about breast cancer screening recommendations. If you are between 50 to 74-years-old and at average risk for breast cancer, the United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends getting a mammogram every two years.

Contact Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology today for more information about breast cancer and breast cancer treatment options. Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology has multiple facilities located in the Tampa Bay area. Here is a link to learn more: https://tbropa.com/.