What is Breast Cancer?
When someone is diagnosed with breast cancer, it means that their cells in their breast tissue change and divide uncontrollably. This results in a lump or mass in the lobules, ducts, or connective tissue of the breast. There are many different types of breast cancer, and the type is dependent on which cells in the breast turn into cancer. The most common types are:
- Invasive ductal carcinoma: This type of cancer is where the cancer cells grow outside the ducts into other parts of the breast tissue. Invasive ductal carcinoma can spread to other parts of the body.
- Invasive lobular carcinoma: This type of cancer is where the cancerous cells spread from the lobules to the nearby breast tissue. Similar to invasive ductal carcinoma, this type of breast cancer can also spread.
Signs of Breast Cancer
While the signs and symptoms of breast cancer vary from person to person, some of the more common warning signs include:
- Swelling, redness, or other visible skin changes in one or both breasts
- Increase in size or change in the shape of one or both breasts
- Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)
- General pain
- Lumps or nodes felt on or inside the breast
Signs of more invasive breast cancer may include:
- Irritated or itchy breasts
- Change in breast color
- Changes in touch, including feeling hard, tender, or warm
- Peeling or flaking of the nipple skin
- A breast lump or thickening
It’s important to note that you may not experience any symptoms at all, which is why it is crucial to be screened by your gynecologist regularly.
About Breast Cancer Screening
Your gynecologist will use a mammogram to screen for breast cancer. This screening test uses low dose X-rays to look for changes in your breast tissue. A mammogram can detect lumps that are small and cannot be felt in a self-examination. It is recommended that all women over 40 schedule a yearly mammogram, but it’s important that you discuss your options with your gynecologist. He or she will help guide you in knowing what the right choice for your body is.
Breast Cancer Facts You May Not Know
- 1 in 8 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. That equates to about 12% of the female population in the US. About every 2 minutes a woman is diagnosed.
- While it is not as common, men can get breast cancer too. About 1 in 1,000 men will be diagnosed.
- Except for skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women.
- There are more than 3.5 million breast cancer survivors in the US, which is the largest group of all cancer survivors.
- Although many people, unfortunately, pass away from this type of cancer, the death rates for breast cancer have been decreasing since 1989. These decreases may be a result of treatment advances, earlier detection, and increased awareness.
- A woman’s risk of breast cancer almost doubles if her mother, sister, or daughter has been diagnosed.
- 5-10% of breast cancers can be linked to a gene mutation that is inherited from your mom or dad. Women with the BRCA1 mutation have up to a 72% risk of developing breast cancer, while women with the BRCA2 mutation have up to a 69% risk. Breast cancer that is positive for these mutations tends to develop more often in younger women.
- The most significant risk factors are gender (being a woman) and age (the older you are, the higher your chance).
- 62% of breast cancer cases are diagnosed at a localized stage, for which the 5-year survival rate is 99%. If the cancer has spread to the regional lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate is 85%. If the cancer has spread to a distant part of the body, the 5-year survival rate dips to 27%. Early detection is the best prevention!
- Causes of breast cancer can be genetic (age, race, family history) or caused by environmental factors (alcohol consumption, weight).
Breast Health Services in Livingston, New Jersey
No matter if you’re over 40 or not, if you are concerned about your risk of developing breast cancer, it’s important to schedule an appointment with Dr. Quartell and his staff. We are happy to answer any questions you may have about breast cancer or any other gynecological condition you are worried about. For more information about our Livingston, New Jersey office, please contact us today.
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Even if it’s not your first mammogram, many women often are anxious before appointments. But there’s no need to be stressed! A breast screening is an important step in taking care of your body. Use our blog below to learn more about what the procedure entails and how to prepare for it to help ease your nerves!
What is a Mammogram?
A mammogram is one of the best ways to detect breast cancer as early as possible. Using low-dose X-rays, this specific type of breast imaging allows specialists to look for changes in a woman’s breast tissue. It is crucial that you do not put off your mammogram. The technology that is used can detect lumps that are too small to be felt in a self-examination. This is when breast cancer is easiest to treat.
How to Prepare for Your Mammogram
If you haven’t started menopause, it is best to schedule your mammogram for the week after your period. You don’t want to schedule it in the days leading up to or during your menstrual cycle, especially if that’s when you tend to experience breast tenderness. You may prefer to schedule your appointment for early in the day, as you cannot wear any deodorant, powder, lotion or ointment. Some of the ingredients in these products can show up on an X-ray.
On the day of your appointment, be sure to wear a two-piece outfit. You only have to remove your top for the exam, so separates make things more convenient. Be sure to describe any breast changes or problems to your doctor before the mammogram begins. You also need to tell your doctor if you are breastfeeding or may be pregnant.
What Happens During a Mammogram?
During your screening, you and your technologist will be the only two people in the room. He or she will position you to get two X-rays of each breast. For some women, more pictures may be needed. If that’s the case, no need to worry! A technologist may reposition you for an extra X-ray or two, but this is usually just to get a better view. If you have implants, additional photos are almost always required.
To get the highest quality picture, your breasts need to be flattened. This allows the breast tissue to spread, ensuring a clear view of the breast and reducing the amount of radiation needed to produce an image. Some women experience some pain or discomfort during the compression. While the appointment usually takes about 20 minutes, the compression only lasts about 10 to 20 seconds per picture. Be sure to tell the technologist if you’re experiencing a tremendous amount of pain.
About Your Mammogram Results
A full report of your results will be sent to your health care provider. If there are any abnormal findings, the radiologist will send you a letter in the mail detailing what they found to be abnormal. While abnormal mammogram results can be scary, it does not necessarily mean you have cancer. It could just mean higher-resolution images or an ultrasound is needed to further examine you. Many women who have initial abnormal results are found to be perfectly healthy.
When Should You Schedule Your First Mammogram?
There is a lot of debate as to when women should schedule their first mammogram. Before 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) used to recommend all women over 40 should schedule a yearly mammogram. But in 2009, the USPSTF updated its screening recommendations to state that a woman who is at average risk for breast cancer could wait until she turned 50, and that she could schedule a mammogram every 2 years, instead of yearly. This has caused much debate within the medical community, making it unclear for women as to when they should schedule their mammograms.
The best thing to do is to speak with your doctor. He or she will be able to help you decide what is the right choice for your body, depending on your medical history and risk of developing breast cancer.
Breast Health Services in Livingston, New Jersey
If you are concerned about your risk of developing breast cancer, it is important that you speak with an experienced gynecologist. Dr. Quartell and his staff would be happy to answer any questions or address any concerns you may have about your breast health, or any gynecological condition you may be experiencing. For more information or to schedule a visit to our Livingston, New Jersey office, please contact us today.