Breast Cancer Awareness: Questions & Answers

Breast Cancer Awareness: Questions & Answers

Breast cancer is serious. And everyone should be aware of the risks and treatments for breast cancer. We encourage you to learn more about breast cancer and take advantage of the resources we offer at Weeks Medical Center.

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Why is breast cancer awareness so important?

Breast cancer is the second most common form of cancer among women in the United States. It’s also one of the leading causes of death among women. Early detection and improvements in treatments have helped millions of women survive breast cancer. Awareness has also helped fund research to prevent and treat breast cancer.

Am I at risk for breast cancer?

One in eight American women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. According to the American Cancer Society, the risk of breast cancer increases as a woman ages; if she has never had children; or if she has her first child after 30. Studies also suggest that the risk may be higher for women who eat high-fat diets and those who smoke. Yet 80 percent of breast cancers occur in women with no risk factors.

How can I lower my risk for breast cancer?

There is no known way to prevent breast cancer. You can take steps to lower your risk such as exercising, eating healthy, limiting alcohol intake, and keeping to a healthy weight. The American Cancer Society recently released guidelines recommend that you start talking with your medical provider about breast cancer screening by age 40. The ideal is prevention and early detection. The best way to catch breast cancer early is to get a regular preventative check-up, much like you go to the dentist to prevent cavities and tooth decay.

How often should I check for breast cancer?

The American Cancer Society recommends annual mammograms for all women starting at age 45. This guideline is for women with average risk for breast cancer. Women with a family history of breast cancer or a breast condition should be screened earlier and more often. Talking with your provider about your risk for breast cancer can determine if your screening should begin earlier. At age 55, women can reduce mammograms to every other year. As long as you are in good health, however, you should have regular mammograms. It is also recommended that you should be familiar with how your breasts look and feel and report any changes to your medical provider.

Is a mammogram really necessary to check for breast cancer?

The purpose of a mammogram is to find cancers early before they start to cause symptoms. Mammograms can often find breast cancers when they are small and have not spread beyond the breast. There is strong evidence that mammogram screenings substantially reduce breast cancer deaths in women ages 40 to 74.

Does Weeks offers testing and treatment for breast cancer?

Weeks offers comprehensive counseling, education, testing, treatment, and surgery for breast cancer. Our mammography technology, the Fuji Aspire HD, is an excellent digital system and is as good as it gets. We realize that breast cancer is scary. We’re here to answer your questions and make you comfortable about getting tested. Mammogram testing generally takes about 15 minutes. We guide you through the process so you can relax. If a lump or abnormality is found, we can perform all surgical biopsies, lumpectomies, and mastectomies at the hospital. Your care is always close to home.

What else should I know about breast cancer?

We have more knowledge about breast cancer today, but there is still fear. The best way to face the fear is to test regularly. According to the American Cancer Society, the chance that breast cancer will lead to a woman’s death is about 1 in 36 (about 3%). Death rates from breast cancer have been declining yearly, with larger decreases in women younger than 50. These decreases are the result of earlier detection through screening and increased awareness, as well as improved treatment.

As your community hospital, we try to be available for all your questions about breast cancer. We’ve tested hundreds of women for breast cancer and encourage regular testing. We’re here to help.

For more information or to make an appointment, please call 603-788-5095.

 

by Susie Short, Women’s Imaging Specialist/Mammographer