One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Breast cancer is the most common type of invasive cancer diagnosed in women in the United States and the second leading cause of cancer related death. Every year in the U.S. more than 40,000 women die of breast cancer. Most of these cases occur in women over the age of 50 or who are postmenopausal; however up to 10% of new cancer diagnoses in the United States are made in younger women.
Current guidelines on breast cancer screening vary by institution, but most OB/GYNs follow the recommendation of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology to perform breast cancer screening by yearly mammography starting at age 40. It is important to talk to your doctor about your family history of all cancers to determine if you qualify for early screening or referral for genetic counseling and testing. As technology evolves, more and more cancer-causing genes and familial syndromes are uncovered that can be linked to a heightened risk of breast and many other cancers. The genes most commonly implicated in hereditary breast cancer are BRCA1 and BRCA2. They account for approximately 3% of all breast cancer diagnoses and are especially important in young women diagnosed with breast cancer. Collect your family history on both sides and talk to your doctor about your risk of breast cancer and if you meet criteria for early screening or genetic testing.
Women of average risk should have a clinical breast exam at least every three years starting at age 20 and yearly starting at age 40. Know what is normal for you and see your doctor if you notice any breast changes such as a lump or hard knot, swelling, warmth, redness, changes in the size or shape of the breast, dimpling or puckering of the skin, itchy or scaly rash on the nipple, nipple discharge that starts suddenly or new onset pain in one area that does not go away. It is important to remember that any breast changes should prompt a visit to your doctor to discuss even if you have already completed your annual exam or screening mammogram for the year.
Visit CDC.gov/cancer/breast for more information. To schedule your annual well woman exam, contact MOGA 901.843.1500 or mogamd.com