October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is an annual campaign to highlight the importance of appropriate screening tests (such as mammograms) and manual breast exams. Early detection of breast cancer is a key factor in the successful treatment of the disease and in preventing breast cancer deaths.
Cancer is a disease that causes cells to grow abnormally and to divide more rapidly than healthy cells do. As cancer cells grow out of control, they can invade and destroy healthy cells, tissues, and organs.
Each type of cancer is named for its originating location, regardless of where else it spreads (metastasizes) in the body. Breast cancer therefore starts in the cells of the breast, and it usually forms a lump-like tumor. A majority of breast cancers begin in the milk ducts.
Breast cancer affects one in eight women in the United States. The disease can also affect men, but it is a lot more common in women; indeed, it is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in women. However, breast cancer survival rates are steadily increasing (which is the case with many types of cancer), and this is largely thanks to an increase in awareness of the disease, earlier detection, and advanced cancer treatments.
Breast Cancer Screening to Detect Early Signs of Cancer
Many women with breast cancer have no symptoms. Sometimes the disease is only found once obvious symptoms, such as a lump, can be physically felt. This is why regular breast cancer screening tests are so important to identify breast cancer in its earliest stages, before symptoms develop, and before the cancer can develop into a possible untreatable malignancy.
The most common tests and procedures that are used to diagnose breast cancer include:
- Clinical (manual) breast exam – Provided by a healthcare provider who is medically trained to recognize cancer warning signs and different types of abnormalities
- Mammogram – A low-dose X-ray of the breast used to detect abnormalities in the breast tissue
- Three-dimensional (3D) mammogram – Similar to a traditional 2D mammogram but with a series of images of the breast tissue from more angles; it can be more effective especially for dense breast tissue
- Breast ultrasound – Utilizes soundwaves (no radiation) to produce images of structures and tissues located deep in the breast
- Breast MRI – Uses a magnet and radio waves (no radiation) to produce detailed images of the inner part of the breast
- Biopsy – Involves removing a tiny sample of breast cells for laboratory testing
When Should I Have a Mammogram?
Women who are at an average risk of breast cancer includes women who:
- Do not have a personal history of breast cancer
- Do not have a strong family history of breast cancer (parent, sibling, or child)
- Do not have a gene mutation known to increase the risk of breast cancer (BRCA1 or BRCA2), which is determined via genetic testing
- Have not had radiation therapy to the chest before age 30
For women who are considered at high risk of breast cancer, they are recommended to get a mammogram every year, usually starting at age 30. Talk to your OB/GYN about when and how often you should have a mammogram.
Breast Cancer Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of cancer in the breast may include:
- A lump/thickening in the breast tissue that feels different from the surrounding tissue
- A change in the shape, size, or appearance of your breast
- Recent asymmetry of breasts
- Changes to the skin of the breast, nipple, or areola (the pigmented area of skin surrounding the nipple), such as dimpling, crusting, flaking, peeling, scaling, or redness
- Nipple discharge, especially if clear or pink/bloody
- Enlargement of pores in the breast skin (similar to the texture of an orange peel)
- A nipple that has become newly inverted or that is turned slightly
- Unexplained shrinkage of one breast
Women’s Healthcare in Decatur, Stonecrest, and Stone Mountain, GA
At Dekalb Women’s Specialists Gynecological & Obstetrical Care, our compassionate OB/GYN providers offer an extensive range of women’s healthcare services – including comprehensive well-woman exams, preventive screenings, full-service pregnancy care, menopause symptom relief, fertility evaluations, and treatment for a range of gynecology conditions.
We take a patient-centered approach to women’s healthcare, and we provide medical care and support for every stage of a woman’s life.
To find out more about our services or to book an appointment, call us today at (404) 508-2000 or you can request an appointment via our online form now. We have three convenient offices in which to serve you, in Decatur, Stonecrest, and Stone Mountain, Georgia, and we look forward to seeing you!