It’s normal to feel lost, anxious, or confused when faced with the possibility of a cancer diagnosis. The best way to stay ahead of breast cancer is to understand the disease, as well as its symptoms and warning signs. Being informed may make a difference in detecting breast cancer early when it’s more likely to be treated.
Understanding the basic facts about breast cancer can help you better understand what lies ahead:
- There is a 1 in 8 chance that a woman may develop breast cancer in her lifetime, states cancer.org.
- 5 to 10 percent of breast cancer cases are believed to be hereditary when a gene mutates and that mutation then becomes part of their child’s DNA. Family history of breast cancer may increase your risk, but most people diagnosed with breast cancer have no known family history of breast cancer. Not every person with a known genetic mutation will develop cancer.
- The American Cancer Society states that most breast lumps are not cancerous; instead they’re fibrosis, cysts, or benign tumors.
- Exercising regularly can help reduce risk, but won’t eliminate it. Nothing can guarantee you’ll never get the disease. But it’s still worth managing the risk factors you can control, such as exercise.
The Importance of Breast Cancer Screenings
A breast cancer screening, usually a mammogram, involves checking a woman’s breasts to detect cancer, often before signs or symptoms of disease arise. While this doesn’t prevent breast cancer, getting screened can be crucial to your breast health. It’s recommended you are screened every year once you are 40 years of age and over, right up until the point where your life expectancy is less than 10 years.
Breast cancer screening is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Your doctor will help you determine which test is right for you. He or she will discuss the following tests:
- Mammogram: A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. Currently, mammograms are the best way to detect breast cancer early, often before it’s big enough to feel a lump or cause symptoms. Having regular mammograms can lower the risk of breast cancer progression by identifying and starting treatment early.
- 3-D mammography (breast tomosynthesis): 3-D mammography (also known as breast tomosynthesis) provides clearer pictures than digital mammography alone. As a result, research has shown that the 3-D imaging provides better breast cancer detection rates and a decrease in call backs, which means women are less likely to have to return for additional imaging. 3D mammography can take as little as four seconds for early detection of breast cancer.
- Screening Breast Ultrasound: Ultrasound uses sound waves to determine if lesions in the breast are solid or cystic. It can also look for blood flow and the contour of breast masses. A screening breast ultrasound can be used as an additional study for patients with dense breast tissue. It can be performed directly by the ultrasound technologist or using an automated machine that scans the entire breast. Ultrasound should not replace mammogram for screening, but used in addition to mammogram in order to detect breast cancer at its earliest stages.
- Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): A breast MRI takes pictures of the breast by using magnets and radio waves. This method is often used along with mammograms to screen women who are at higher risk for breast cancer.
What Determines High Risk for Breast Cancer?
You or a loved one may be considered “high risk” for breast cancer, which can be confusing and nerve-wracking, especially if you’re not clear on the meaning of this term. Being high risk for breast cancer does not mean you will get cancer; it means your chances of developing cancer are higher than a woman who is at average risk. Consult with your doctor as cancer genetics programs can identify your level of risk.
Capital Health’s Cancer Genetics Program features certified genetic counselors that offer various tests that take many different factors into consideration.
Ask your doctor if consulting with a professional, certified genetics counselor is appropriate for you.
What are Symptoms of Breast Cancer?
Looking out for breast cancer symptoms shouldn’t be all-consuming, but being aware of any changes in your breast can end up saving your life. The only way to know if you have breast cancer is to get screened and diagnosed, but first and foremost, you must learn identifying signs and symptoms to look for. These include:
- Lumps or swelling in the breast, upper chest, or armpit
- Change to the skin
- Change in the color of the breast
- Change in the nipple, such as inversion
- Nipple discharge
- Change in size or shape of the breast
Pain in your breasts that occurs every now and then is not usually a sign of breast cancer. However, consistent pain should not be ignored. Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing these symptoms.
The Center for Comprehensive Breast Care at Capital Health
Coming to terms with a breast cancer diagnosis is difficult, but trusting the right professionals to guide you through the process will give you the peace of mind that you deserve.
The Center for Comprehensive Breast Care at Capital Health is the only place you’ll need to go for your care. Offering a full range of services, we handle every aspect of your breast care — from cancer to cysts, abscesses, lesions, breast pain, and other breast-related disorders.
Capital Health’s expert physicians specializing in breast care and a multidisciplinary team will provide you a comprehensive, personalized treatment plan. Based on the nature of your problem, your team could include a breast surgeon, radiologist, medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, plastic surgeon, rehabilitation services, cancer pathologists, nurse patient navigator, and more. You’ll align with your dedicated team who will give you a thorough evaluation and detailed description of your diagnosis, as well as your treatment plan. Your understanding is as important to us as it is to you.
Diagnostics is one of the most sensitive portions of your journey, and we’re dedicated to ensuring it’s a comfortable experience. You’ll receive personal attention from your team as they utilize top-notch, advanced technology to perform screenings based on your symptoms and situation. The Women’s Imaging Center at Capital Health includes state-of-the-art, full-field 3-D digital mammography, which offers a higher resolution image for greater diagnostic accuracy.
At the Center for Comprehensive Breast Care, we’re guided by the idea that the best way to treat breast disease is to treat the person — not just the patient —– who has cancer. That means we combine the latest evidence-based treatments with an array of support that embraces you at every turn.
To learn more about Capital Health’s Cancer Center, call 609.303.6363 or visit capitalhealth.org/cancer.
To schedule your mammogram at the Women’s Imaging Center, call 609-303-4034 or submit our online mammogram request form.