Part of every woman’s health care regimen should include keeping up with breast health. Women have a 1 in 8 risk of getting breast cancer. It is the most common form of cancer in women, second only to lung cancer. That is why women need to perform regular self-examinations, have annual visits to their breast care specialist, and adhere to the recommended schedule for mammograms.
Where To Start
The process usually begins when a woman or her doctor finds a change in the breast. Finding a change can begin during a self-examination, an examination by a doctor, or in a mammogram.
Self-examinations are essential for every woman once she reaches puberty. Breast cancer is a leading cause of death among young women age 15-34.
Performing monthly self-examinations will help the young woman notice changes such as a lump, a change in the texture of the breast skin, a nipple pulling inward, or a bloody discharge from the nipple. If any of those conditions are noted, a visit to the doctor or gynecologist is warranted.
Sometimes, the abnormality is unnoticed by a woman during a self-examination, yet it is detected during a routine clinical examination by a woman’s primary care doctor or gynecologist. Once the abnormality is noted, the doctor usually will order a mammogram for further evaluation.
In many cases, the developing cancer is in its early stages and is too small to be detected during a physical examination. However, a mammogram can detect the existence and location of microscopic tissue abnormalities. That is why it is crucial for women to keep up with regular mammograms once they reach the age of 40.
Once a mammogram has identified a suspicious area in the breast, more testing will be necessary to form an accurate diagnosis. That is when the patient will be referred to a breast care specialist.
Know When To See Your Breast Care Specialist
Any changes in your breasts should be looked at by your doctor. Things to watch out for include:
- A lump in or near your breast or under your arm.
- Changes in the size or shape of your breast.
- Dimpling, puckering, swelling, or bulging of the skin of a breast.
- A nipple that has changed position or is pushed inward.
- Redness, soreness, or rash on the breast.
- Unexplainable nipple discharge, especially if bloody.
These symptoms do not always mean you have cancer, but they do need to be evaluated by your doctor.
Referral To A Breast Care Specialist
Once a primary care doctor or gynecologist detects an abnormality in a breast of one of their patients, the doctor will refer the patient to a breast care specialist for a diagnosis.
What A Breast Care Specialist Does
By the time a patient is referred to a breast care specialist, the patient likely will have already had a traditional mammogram. If the patient has not had one, the breast care specialist will order one. A mammogram is a low dose X-ray examination of the breasts usually performed yearly to help detect breast cancer in its earliest stages.
A breast care specialist may perform a high resolution 3-D mammogram. This state-of-the-art mammogram allows the doctor to view the images on a remote computer and zoom in on the suspicious areas.
Digital Breast Ultrasound
A breast ultrasound is an important device used to examine the breast using high-frequency sound waves. The sound waves create images of the internal breast tissue. The ultrasound device can usually show the doctor whether a lump is a benign fluid-filled cyst or a solid mass.
A breast MRI can be used to determine the extent of cancer conditions in the breast and detect other abnormalities in the breast once they are initially detected by a mammogram, ultrasound or manual breast examination.
A breast care specialist may need a biopsy of the breast tissue to determine whether cancer is present and how extensive it may be. These biopsies allow the doctor to analyze the abnormal breast tissue in detail.
Some breast care specialists are able to conduct genetic testing for their patients to get information about their predisposition for cancer.
If the breast care specialist determines breast tissue removal is appropriate, the breast care specialist may perform that surgery. Depending on the extent of the cancer, all or part of the breast tissue may be removed.
Referral to Oncologist
If the diagnosis is cancer, the breast specialist may need to refer the patient to a medical oncologist and/or a radiation oncologist for further treatment.
Contact The Expert Breast Care Specialist For More Info About Breast Health
The women’s health experts at Raleigh Gynecology and Wellness can answer any of your questions about your breast health, diagnosis or treatment. They are happy to discuss any breast health care concerns no matter what the issue may be and schedule an appointment.