Early detection remains the best weapon in the fight against breast cancer. When cancer is detected early, it improves your chances for successful treatment.
The three ways to screen for breast cancer are mammograms, clinical breast exams and magnetic resonance imaging – a test for women who have a family history of breast cancer, certain gene changes and genetic syndromes.
If you’re a woman, chances are you know you’re supposed to get a mammogram. It’s the most common screening test for breast cancer. The big question for women seems to be when to get a mammogram.
With major health organizations giving different advice on mammograms, it’s no wonder women are a little confused. Fortunately, the solution is simple.
“Talk to your doctor,” said Janet Matthews, DO, a board-certified obstetrician gynecologist. “Discuss your own situation and make an informed decision together.”
If you’re a patient of Matthews at Hampton Roads OB/GYN Center, she’ll tell you up front that she’s a little biased when it comes to mammograms. She was diagnosed at age 40 with breast cancer.
“If insurance will pay for it, I recommend screening mammograms begin at age 40,” Matthews said.
Although she encourages patients over 40 to have a mammogram, she understands there may be reasons why some women want to wait. Mammograms are less likely to find breast tumors in women younger than 50 years than in older women, according to the National Cancer Institute. Still, they may find tumors that are too small to feel or they may detect abnormal cells in the lining of the breast duct. Ductal carcinoma in situ – also known as DCIS – may become invasive cancer in some women.
Most importantly, statistics show that women aged 40 to 74 who have screening mammograms have a lower chance of dying from breast cancer than those who skip them.
“If breast cancer is found early, it’s very treatable,” Matthews said.
About one in eight women get breast cancer. It’s a common type of cancer for women but it’s not the No. 1 leading cause of death for women – that’s heart disease.
When a woman has breast cancer, her treatment options depend on the type of cancer she has, its stage, location and other health factors. In general, treatment options include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and targeted therapy.
Bon Secours Cancer Institute at DePaul recently became one of three sites nationwide to offer a new radiation therapy option called Breast Microseed Treatment®. For women 50 and older who have early-stage breast cancer, the treatment helps prevent cancer from recurring. Instead of needing numerous radiation treatment sessions, Breast Microseed Treatment® only requires one visit for the procedure. Radiation oncologists place tiny seeds in the breast where they deliver a low dose of radiation for up to three months.
The treatment uses less radiation; patients experience reduced side effects.
“This is an exciting breakthrough in treatment much like the introduction of prostate seed implantation was over 30 years ago,” said Michele Nedelka, MD, radiation oncologist with Bon Secours Oncology Specialists. “I’m very pleased we can offer women this new option for breast cancer treatment.”
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