More About Breast Health
The thought of having breast cancer is frightening to everyone, and especially devastating to women. However, ignoring the possibility that you may develop breast cancer or avoiding the processes to detect cancer can be dangerous.
Although there are some women who are at higher risk, the fact is that all women are at risk for breast cancer. That’s why it’s so important to follow this three-step plan for preventive care. Although breast cancer can’t be prevented at the present time, early detection of problems provides the greatest possibility of successful treatment.
What is the Three-Step Plan?
Routine care is the best way to keep you and your breasts healthy. Although detecting breast cancer at its earliest stages is the main goal of routine breast care, other benign conditions, such as fibrocystic breasts, are often discovered through routine care.
STEP 1. Breast Self-Examination
The American Cancer Society (ACS) says that breast self-exams are an option for women ages 20 and older as a means of familiarizing themselves with their breasts so they can notice changes more easily. BSE should be done regularly at the same time every month. Regular BSE teaches you to know how your breasts normally feel so that you can more readily detect any change. Changes may include:
- Development of a lump
- A discharge other than breast milk
- Swelling of the breast
- Skin irritation or dimpling
- Nipple abnormalities (for example, pain, redness, scaliness, or turning inward)
If you notice any of these changes, see your About Women Ob-Gyn provider as soon as possible for evaluation.
STEP 2. Clinical Examination
At About Women Ob-Gyn, your annual routine women’s health checkup includes a breast examination. A clinical breast examination is very similar to the procedures used for breast self-examination. Women who routinely practice BSE will be prepared to ask questions and have their concerns addressed during this time.
STEP 3. Mammography
Mammography is a low-dose X-ray of the breasts to find changes that may occur. It’s the most common imaging technique. Mammography can detect cancer or other problems before a lump becomes large enough to be felt, as well as assist in the diagnosis of other breast problems. However, a biopsy is required to confirm the presence of cancer.
In accordance with guidelines recommended by the American Cancer Society and other leading medical organizations, About Women Ob-Gyn recommends that most women begin having mammograms at age 40 and annually thereafter. For women with certain factors in their personal or family medical history that increase the risk of breast cancer, we may recommend that mammograms begin at a younger age. Other risk factors, such as having dense breast tissue, may also warrant additional screenings in conjunction with a mammogram.
It is important to be sure that your About Women Ob-Gyn clinician is fully informed about your personal and family medical history—especially if you have had a first-degree relative (mother, sibling, or child) who has had breast cancer.
Your About Women Ob-Gyn clinician can provide a referral to conveniently located, high-quality imaging centers where you can schedule your mammogram—with the NEW option of convenient, same-day appointments for your mammogram and annual gynecological exam. If your mammogram has questionable findings, follow-up exams such as a diagnostic mammogram may be needed.
For more information about breast health services at About Women Ob-Gyn, please visit the pages about Annual Exams and and Breast Examinations. To schedule an appointment for your annual exam, please call 703.878.0740.