Becoming Aware of Breast Cancer Risks & Screening
Dr. Megally Spills the Tea on Breast Cancer Awareness
Breast cancer accounts for 30% of all new cases of cancer diagnosed in women. In the United States, a woman's lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is approximately 12%. Breast cancer mortality rates have tremendously decreased over the past 50 years, and that can be attributed to early detection and screening guidelines, as well as improvements in breast cancer treatment.
The main risk factors for breast cancer are female gender and advancing age. Although other characteristics have been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, most women in whom invasive breast cancer is diagnosed do not have identifiable risk factors.
The goal of screening is to detect preclinical disease in healthy, asymptomatic patients to prevent adverse outcomes, improve survival, and avoid the need for more intensive treatments.
Breast self-examination, breast self-awareness, clinical breast examination, and mammography all have been used alone or in combination to screen for breast cancer.
Women at average risk of breast cancer should begin screening mammography starting at age 40. If they have not, they should begin screening mammography by no later than age 50 years.
The decision about the age to begin mammography screening should be made through a shared decision-making process with your health care provider.
Shared decision making is important for decisions regarding breast cancer screening due to many choices involved in personal preferences related to potential benefits and adverse consequences, as well as each individual's differing risk factors.
Your health care provider will periodically assess your personal breast cancer risk by reviewing your history and family history of cancer in first-degree, second-degree, and third-degree relatives as well as the age of diagnosis. If you are at an increased risk of breast cancer based, further risk assessment will be performed.
If you believe that you are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer, or have not had your annual screening, speak to your health care provider today to help determine your recommended screening schedule.