According to the World Health Organization, over 2 million women are affected by breast cancer each year. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among all women. Early detection improves the odds of successfully treating breast cancer. Regular breast examinations, mammograms, and seeing a breast care specialist are the best ways to detect breast cancer at an early stage.
When Should You See Your Doctor About Breast Care?
A breast examination will involve a physical exam by your doctor. The breast examination is often done as part of your regular gynecological examination. Once you become sexually active or reach age 21, whichever occurs first, you should receive yearly wellness examinations.
The risk of women in their twenties developing breast cancer is low. Only about one in 2,000 women in their twenties get breast cancer.,
The chances of developing breast cancer increase as you age. Women in their thirties have a 1 in 229 chance of getting it. It increases in your forties and fifties to 1 in 37. By the time you reach your sixties, your chances increase to 1in 20.
How often you should have a breast examination depends on your age and medical history. Below is some general advice on the frequency of seeing your doctor for breast examination:
Whenever You Notice Changes in Your Breasts During a Self-Examination
Any sudden changes in your breast tissue could be a sign of something serious. Specifically, you should be on the lookout for changes in size, any lumps, nipple inversion (meaning it appears to be sucking inward instead of poking outward), redness, dimpling, puckering or scaliness of the skin of your breasts, or any unusual nipple discharge or secretion, especially a bloody discharge. If you notice any of those conditions, you need to have a professional breast care specialist examine you.
The National Breast Cancer Foundation recommends that all women learn how to perform a self-examination of their breasts and conduct one every month.
The best time to do a self-examination is seven to ten days after your menstrual period starts. On those days, your breasts are less tender and swollen. If you have reached menopause, you should try to do your self-examination on the same day every month.
Annually After Age 40 Until Age 75
Once you reach age 40 and until you are 75, you should begin seeing your doctor for a breast examination every year. The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age.
Also, if you have a family history of breast cancer, your doctor may recommend that you have a clinical breast examination more often. Your doctor will perform a physical exam and then schedule you for a screening mammography to detect abnormalities in your breast tissue. Regular mammograms reduce the breast cancer mortality rate by 20%.
As Recommended by Your Doctor
Women over age 75 may no longer need annual mammograms because their risks profiles change as they age.
On the other hand, women who are at increased risk for cancer because they have a family history of it, have themselves had cancer or have had abnormal findings in their mammograms, or have a higher risk because they carry a specific genetic mutation may need more frequent examinations.
Types of Testing for Breast Health
Your doctor will perform a manual examination of your breasts. In addition to physical examinations, you may need more careful examination of your breasts.
Your doctor will likely order a mammogram for you if your doctor notices any abnormality during the physical examination or if you are between age 40 and 75. A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray of your breasts.
During the mammogram, a special x-ray machine will compress your breast tissues between two firm surfaces to photograph the tissues.
A specialist will study the photographs for abnormalities such as tumors and lumps. This test can detect signs of cancer in women before the symptoms become detectable during a physical examination.
If the mammogram shows abnormalities, an ultrasound of the area of concern may be needed. An ultrasound can reveal the size and shape of any lumps and allow the doctor to determine if it is a benign cyst, normal tissue or a potentially cancerous tumor. Ultrasounds are also used to monitor previously identified abnormalities.
Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, uses radio waves and magnets to create detailed images of breast tissue. It is sometimes useful to diagnose breast cancer and to assess known tumors. MRI can also be used for breast cancer screening in women who are at very high risk for cancer.
If the other tests indicate that you might have breast cancer, your doctor will likely order a biopsy of the affected breast tissue. In some cases, a biopsy is the only way your doctor can know with certainty that a mass cancerous, and what type of cancer it is.
During a biopsy, your doctor will use a needle to remove small pieces of tissue from the suspicious area and a pathologist will examine it in the lab for cancer cells.
Contact The Breast Care Specialists At Raleigh Gynecology And Wellness
The women’s health experts at Raleigh Gynecology and Wellness can answer your questions about breast health and provide you with top quality care. Contact them to schedule an appointment for your examination.