Although both women and men can develop cancer in their breasts, it’s much more common in women. Most breast cancers begin in the milk-producing ducts, but breast cancer can originate in any cells that make up breast tissue.
To keep your breasts healthy and promote early detection, our medical experts at Low Testosterone & Weight Loss Center offer women’s health services, including exams and referrals for breast cancer screening at our offices in Allen, Texas. If you’re a woman, here’s what you should know about breast cancer.
Early breast cancer is often curable
The fear of knowing you have breast cancer may prevent you from conducting self-exams or getting regular mammograms. However, early detection, as well as improved treatment options, are the main reasons why survival rates for breast cancer have increased dramatically over the past decades.
Cancer local only to the breast now has a 99% 5-year survival rate for women who undergo treatment. Most women who have breast cancer (63%) are diagnosed at this stage.
If the cancer is caught at a later stage and has spread (i.e., metastasized), survival rates go down. For instance, if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate with treatment is 86%.
Get to know your breasts
Although not all breast cancer manifests in lumps or bumps, the more familiar you are with your breasts, the more likely you’ll be to detect changes that need further investigation. Once a month, gently palpate your breasts and examine them in the mirror for changes such as:
- Lumps or bumps
- Distortions or swellings
- Dimpling or puckered skin
- Changes in nipple position
- Red, rashy, or sore breasts
- Nipples leak when squeezed
Also, raise your arms in front of a mirror to look for bumps, rashes, or other changes in your underarms, which could indicate changes in your lymph nodes. Call us if you detect any troubling changes so we can investigate further.
Get to know your risk
Breast cancer risk increases as you age. Other risk factors for breast cancer include:
- Family history of breast or other cancers
- Personal history of breast cancer or breast issues
- Inherited gene mutations
- Beginning menstruation before age 12
- Entering menopause after age 51
- Having a first child after age 30
- Never being pregnant
- Abusing alcohol
However, having one or multiple risk factors for breast cancer does not mean that you’ll develop the disease. Some women have no known risk factors and still develop breast cancer.
Regular screening saves lives
Early detection is essential with all cancers, including breast cancer. Ideally, you want to catch cancer while it’s still local to the breast and hasn’t spread to other tissues, such as the lymph nodes.
Annual or biannual mammograms are the gold standard for breast cancer screening. However, each woman may benefit from a slightly different screening technique, depending on her personal and family history. Screening methods include:
- Digital mammograms for dense breasts
- 3-D mammograms to identify small cancers
- Ultrasound for dense breasts and women at high risk
- MRI for dense breasts and women at high risk
If you find a lump or other change on a self-exam, our team may first recommend ultrasound or MRI to investigate further. As with all tests, breast screening methods can either lead to false-positive or false-negative results.
False-positive results increase the risk of over-treatment. False-negative results increase the risk of a missed cancer diagnosis. If you have a high risk for cancer or certain genetic mutations, you may benefit from yearly mammograms combined with MRIs.
Your genes are not a death sentence
You’ve probably read a lot about the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations linked to a higher risk for breast and ovarian cancers. You may already know that you have those mutations and are worried about what that means for your future. Or, you may avoid genetic testing because you’re afraid you have the genes.
While it’s true that women with the BRCA1 and 2 mutations are at substantially greater risk for developing breast cancer, the mutations don’t increase their risk for death. In fact, women with the mutations who receive chemotherapy have the same or better survival rates than women without the mutations who receive chemotherapy.
When you know your risk for breast cancer and follow through with self-exams, screenings, and other appropriate tests, you increase the odds of early detection and survival. Stay on top of your breast health by scheduling a breast cancer screening today. Call us at 469-912-2113 or use our online form.