Empower Yourself Now: The Ultimate Guide to Breast Cancer Screening
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, with over 2 million new cases every year. Early detection is key to successful treatment and a positive outcome. Breast cancer screening can help detect cancers before symptoms appear, and early intervention increases the chances of successful treatment. In this ultimate guide to breast cancer screening, we’ll take you through the various methods for screening, how to prepare for them, when to get screened, and much more.
The Importance of Breast Cancer Screening
Breast cancer screening helps detect breast cancer early, when it is most treatable. Screening can identify suspicious lumps or abnormalities before they can be felt, and it increases the chances of successful treatment outcomes. Mammograms and breast exams are among the main methods for breast cancer screening. However, screening does not prevent breast cancer, but it will allow the treatment to be more effective.
A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. It is considered the gold standard for breast cancer screening. A technician will position the breast on a platform, then compress it with a paddle. This will flatten the breast tissue and improve the quality of the image. Mammograms are the most effective way to detect cancer early, and the American Cancer Society recommends starting mammograms at age 45, with yearly screening for women aged 45-54.
Clinical Breast Exam
A clinical breast exam is a physical exam of your breasts, performed by your health provider. During a clinical breast exam, your provider will look for any changes or abnormalities in your breast tissue that could be a sign of cancer, such as lumps, dimpling, or nipple discharge. Clinical breast exams should be performed every one to two years for women ages 25-39.
A breast self-exam is performed by the individual to check for any changes or abnormalities in their breast tissue. Self-exams are often done in the shower or in front of a mirror. It’s best to perform a breast self-exam on a scheduled basis, such as once a month. Self-exams can help you detect any changes or abnormalities in your breast tissue, but they should not be used as a replacement for other forms of breast cancer screening.
A breast MRI is a type of imaging test that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the breast tissue. It is typically recommended for women who are at higher risk of developing breast cancer, such as women with a family history. An MRI is often used in conjunction with a mammogram or clinical breast exam.
Preparing for a Mammogram
Before your mammogram, you should avoid using products like lotion, deodorant, or talcum powder on your breasts and underarms. These products can interfere with the mammogram images. It’s also a good idea to wear a top that you can easily remove, as you will be asked to undress from the waist up for the screening.
When to Get Screened
While there is no definitive answer to this question, the American Cancer Society recommends that women start getting mammograms at age 45. Women between the ages of 45 and 54 should get mammograms every year. Women aged 55 and older can switch to mammograms every two years, or can continue with yearly screening if they prefer. Women with a family history of breast cancer may need to start getting screened earlier or more frequently.
What to Expect During a Screening
During a screening, you will be asked to undress from the waist up and put on a gown. The technician will position your breast on a platform and use a paddle to compress it. This will flatten the breast tissue and improve the quality of the image. The procedure is quick and generally takes only 10-15 minutes.
Results of a Screening
Your results will generally be sent to your primary care provider within a few weeks. If there are any concerns or abnormalities, you will be called back for additional screening. A screening result does not necessarily mean you have breast cancer. In fact, it is relatively common for women to have follow-up tests.
What Happens if Something is Found?
If a lump or abnormality is found during screening, further testing, such as a biopsy, may be needed to determine whether it is cancerous or not. Depending on the results of these tests, your provider will develop a plan of treatment that best suits your individual needs.
How to Lower Your Risk of Breast Cancer
While there is no surefire way to prevent breast cancer, there are several steps you can take to reduce your risk. Some examples of this include maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding tobacco and alcohol, exercising regularly, and breastfeeding.
Breast cancer screening is a vital tool for detecting breast cancer early and increasing the chances of successful treatment. Mammograms, clinical breast exams, and self-exams are all effective ways to screen for breast cancer. By starting at age 45 and being aware of your individual risk factors, you can ensure that you are getting screened regularly and taking the necessary steps to protect yourself.
Q: How often should I get screened for breast cancer?
A: The American Cancer Society recommends that women between the ages of 45 and 54 get annual mammograms. Women aged 55 and older can switch to mammograms every two years, or they can continue to have yearly screening if they prefer. Women with a family history of breast cancer may need to start screening earlier or more frequently.
Q: What if I’m on my period during my mammogram?
A: It’s best to avoid scheduling your mammogram during your period, as your breasts may be more sensitive and tender at that time. If it is unavoidable, let the technician know, and they can use a different technique to minimize discomfort.
Q: How long does a mammogram take?
A: The mammogram itself usually takes 10-15 minutes. However, you may need to wait before and after the exam for the images to be reviewed, so plan for a total appointment time of around 30-45 minutes.
Q: What if something is found during my mammogram?
A: If any abnormalities are found during your mammogram, your provider will recommend further testing, such as a biopsy, to determine if the lump or abnormality is cancerous.
Q: What can I do to prepare for my mammogram?
A: It’s important to avoid using products like lotion, deodorant, or talcum powder on your breasts and underarms before your mammogram. These products can interfere with the image quality. Wear a top that you can easily remove, as you will be asked to undress from the waist up for the screening. Additionally, inform your technician of any breast-related issues you may be experiencing, such as lumps or tenderness.