Monday, January 9, 2012

Resolve to get your Mammogram

I have to admit, like so many women, I always knew there was a chance. But like so many women, I never thought it would be me. I never thought I'd hear those devastating words: 'You have breast cancer.'
-Debbie Wasserman Schultz
I have two friends that have been diagnosed with breast cancer in the past month or two. Both were caught early and the prognosis is excellent. I decided to do some research on the topic and was surprised to learn that the American Cancer Society (ACS) is a bit skeptical about BSE (Breast Self Exams).
"Breast cancers that are found because they can be felt tend to be larger and are more likely to have already spread beyond the breast. In contrast, breast cancers found during screening exams are more likely to be small and still confined to the breast."
Here are the ACS recommendations:
  • Women age 40 and older should have a screening mammogram every year and should continue to do so for as long as they are in good health.
  • Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam (CBE) as part of a periodic (regular) health exam by a health professional, at least every 3 years. After age 40, women should have a breast exam by a health professional every year.
  • Breast self exam (BSE) is an option for women starting in their 20s.  ... Doing BSE regularly is one way for women to know how their breasts normally look and feel and to notice any changes. The goal, with or without BSE, is to report any breast changes to a doctor or nurse right away.
  • Women at high risk (greater than 20% lifetime risk) should get an MRI and a mammogram every year. Women at moderately increased risk (15% to 20% lifetime risk) should talk with their doctors about the benefits and limitations of adding MRI screening to their yearly mammogram. Yearly MRI screening is not recommended for women whose lifetime risk of breast cancer is less than 15%.

    High risk includes
    • Have a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation
    • Have a first-degree relative (parent, brother, sister, or child) with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation
    • A family history with high risk
The ACS seems of two minds on Breast Self Exam technique. It notes that sometimes, women are so concerned about "doing it right" that they become stressed over the technique. And yet the ACS also recommends that women who choose to do BSE should have their BSE technique reviewed during their physical exam by a health professional. So ask your doctor about the right way to do it but don't get stressed out over it.

The ACS addresses concerns over mammogram radiation.
To put dose into perspective, if a woman with breast cancer is treated with radiation, she will receive around 5,000 rads. If she had yearly mammograms beginning at age 40 and continuing until she was 90, she will have received 20 to 40 rads [total].
How much is 20-40 rads? It's equivalent to eating a banana (.0036 rads) or two every month from age 40 to 90.

Bottom Line

Read the entire article at http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/detailedguide/breast-cancer-detection
It might save your life.

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