About 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. By the time a woman is in her 40's, she should be discussing mammograms with her physician. Most experts recommend doing them every year or two in their 40s and annually after 50 years of age. As women age their risk for breast cancer increases. Although cancer risks increase for women who have a family member such as a mother, sister, or daughter who has had breast cancer, approximately 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer.
A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast that is used to detect anything unusual that could be going on in the breast tissue. A mammogram uses compression to take two pictures of each breast in order to get the best results. The whole process from beginning to end only lasts around 20 minutes. Mammograms can help save lives by detecting cancer early.
Because a mammogram alone can miss 10-20% of cancers, it is imperative that the imaging procedure be combined with a clinical exam. If breast cancer is found early the chances for a successful treatment are greatly improved.
Doing breast self-exams can also help you recognize if anything is different than usual. Pay attention to if any of these changes or symptoms occurs:
• Lump or thickening in breast or under the arm
• Marked asymmetry of breasts
• Unexplained discoloration
• Localized breast pain
• Shiny skin or large pores
• Scaling, crusting, or drainage of nipple or areola
Although these changes could mean something, keep in mind it is normal for some changes to occur during pregnancy, menopause, menstrual cycles, or if you have been breastfeeding in the past six months.
If you have any other concerns or questions, do not hesitate to make an appointment with your doctor.
Dr. Melina Einfalt, MD, has been practicing internal medicine since 1991. She currently works in the Crystal Lake offices, but plans to be moving to the Barrington offices shortly.