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Gros: Advanced digital mammography detects suspicious breast lesions

Breast cancer occurs when cancer cells form and grow in the breast tissue. One in eight American women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.

Experts agree that if caught and treated early, breast cancer survival rates are excellent.

Breast cancer doesn’t just affect women. Men, too, can get breast cancer. And anytime someone in the family is battling a serious illness, it affects everyone around them.

How prevalent is breast cancer?

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation:

• Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women.

• A woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every two minutes in the United States.

• Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women.

• More than 250,000 U.S. women will be diagnosed with breast cancer each year.

• Of those, over 40,500 of them will die.

Here’s the good news: There are well over 3 million breast cancer survivors living in the U.S. right now.

What are the Risks for Breast Cancer?

One of the most common misconceptions about breast cancer is that heredity is a frequent cause.

Yes, if you have a close relative who has or had breast cancer, you may have an increased risk – but the fact is, only about 5 to 10 percent of new breast cancer cases are caused by inheriting a gene that causes it.

If you are concerned about your risk, have a talk with your doctor.

Other risk factors include:

• Gender: Women get breast cancer far more often than men.

• Age: Two-thirds of breast cancer cases are diagnosed after age 55.

• Race: Caucasian women are more likely to develop breast cancer, but the disease is more common among African American women under the age of 45.

• Additional potential breast cancer risk factors include having dense breast tissue, starting your menstrual cycle at a young age (especially before 12), and going through menopause after age 55.

Certain lifestyle factors may also put you at a higher risk for breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, consuming excessive amounts of alcohol (more than one drink per day) can up your risk. So can becoming overweight or obese after menopause.

The most important thing to know about risks is that the majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no known risks at all.

What about Breast Cancer Symptoms?

When it comes to symptoms, the most important things to look for is a change in size or shape of your breasts, as well as a lump or thicker area inside the breast itself.

You might also notice skin texture changes (like puckering, or dimpling), and you might develop redness around your nipple.

The key here is to notice. Check regularly for lumps, and note any unusual changes with regard to your breasts.

Early Detection and Screening

Thanks in large part to more awareness and women getting more mammograms, breast cancer rates among women 50 and older are on the decline.

When your doctor mentions scheduling that mammogram, do it, and keep the appointment. Screening brings peace of mind, but it also may help you and your doctors catch the disease early, when it’s more easily treated.

In terms of age, the American Cancer Society recommends yearly mammograms for women 45 or older.

Younger women in their 20s and 30s without major risk factors may not need mammograms. Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have. He or she will be able to tell you when and how often you’ll need to get screened.

What About Treatment Options?

There are many different types of treatment for breast cancer. Treatment is tailored to the individual, based on the type of breast cancer, the stage, and the aggressiveness of the cancer itself.

Your oncologist will recommend the best course of treatment for you. It is helpful to talk to other women you know who are survivors, but keep in mind, their treatment experiences may vary greatly from yours.

The most common treatments for breast cancer are surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy – or a combination of these.

When it comes to breast cancer, time is everything. Don’t waste time by putting off that mammogram.

The minute your doctor gives you the form, schedule the appointment and follow through. It’s the smartest decision you can make when it comes to your health and well-being.

Thibodaux Regional offers advanced digital mammography technology for detecting suspicious breast lesions. Women are benefiting from increased diagnostic accuracy, faster diagnoses, reduced anxiety, and better detection of cancers in the earliest stages.

If you have questions about breast self-exams, mammography or breast cancer treatment, please contact the Cancer Center of Thibodaux Regional at 985-493-4008.

Laura Gros, RN, is the patient care coordinator at the Cancer Center of Thibodaux Regional.