3 common breast cancer questions
We usually associate breast cancer awareness with October. That is when pink ribbons are prominently displayed, stories of breast cancer survivors are featured, breast cancer fundraising increases and women go out of their way to schedule a mammogram.
Although it is great that people focus on breast cancer awareness in October, breast health should not be forgotten the rest of the year. As a breast radiologist, I am regularly asked a few questions about breast cancer that I would like to share with you.
1. Nobody in my family has ever had breast cancer. Why should I get a mammogram?
The vast majority (85 percent) of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history. That is why we recommend yearly screening mammograms for all women over the age of 40. The goal of a screening mammogram is to find breast cancer early, before it can be felt. That is when breast cancer is the smallest and most treatable.
2. I heard that women under 50 no longer need to get mammograms. Is this true?
No, it is not. One out of every eight invasive breast cancers are found in women younger than 45. The American Cancer Society, American College of Radiology, American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and multiple other medical societies recommend yearly mammograms starting at age 40 for most women.
3. I’m really worried. So many women in my family have had breast cancer. Is there anything else I can do?
It can be really stressful to have a strong family history of breast cancer. While there is no proven way to prevent breast cancer, there are some things that you can do to lower your risk of getting it. This includes getting regular physical activity, avoiding weight gain and limiting alcohol intake.
If you think that you have a higher risk of developing breast cancer than most women, talk to your doctor about it. Sometimes genetic testing is recommended and sometimes additional or early screening is suggested. If your lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is estimated to be greater than 20 percent, yearly screening breast MRI may be beneficial in addition to yearly screening mammograms.
If you are interested in learning more about breast cancer, the American Cancer Society has a great website with detailed and helpful information.
About this Angie’s List Expert: Dr. Jennifer Ochsner is a breast radiologist with the Vancouver Clinic, providing radiology care in Vancouver, Wash. She earned her medical degree from the University of Cincinnati and completed her residency in diagnostic radiology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has particular interest in breast MRI, interventional breast procedures, and early detection of breast cancer.
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