How often should I get checked?
One in eight women will get breast cancer in their lives. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death in women. One way to improve these outcomes is by having appropriate screenings whereby we are able to detect cancer earlier. Mammograms can be uncomfortable for many women and sometimes non-cancerous areas show up. However, using the latest technology called digital mammography, we are able to limit these false readings and detect very small cancers. Early discovery of lesions, typically before they are palpable, through the use of mammograms, has a 98 percent survival rate. Studies have indicated that by performing routine screening mammograms, detection of very small lesions can be discovered on the average 2-4 years prior to lesions being palpable, thereby supporting the use of routine screening mammograms.
Mammograms are recommended annually beginning at 40 years of age. If you have a strong family history of breast cancer such as your mother, daughter, or sister having breast cancer, talk to your health care provider about earlier screenings. During your women’s health exam your health care provider should include clinical breast exams for women ages 40 and older at least annually and every 1-3 years for women ages 20-39 years of age. Performing monthly self breast exams (SBE) or also called breast self-awareness, is suggested for women 20 years of age and older. While studies do not indicate that by performing monthly SBE has increased the ability to identify cancer any earlier, the focus is on identifying normal breast appearance and changes thereof.
Early discovery is the key to treatment and or cure. Understanding the importance of annual screening mammograms, annual clinical breast exams by your health care provider, and monthly self breast exams, which are relatively painless and cost efficient for discovering changes in breast tissue, is the ultimate goal. All women should discuss with their health care provider their individual needs and the risks versus benefits of mammograms.
Sources: Recommendations as noted from the American College of Obstetrician and Gynecologist (ACOG); the organization representing the nations’ ob-gyn’s who provide healthcare exclusively for women.
Signs you should report to your health care provider if observed during your monthly SBE include:
- Breast or armpit lump
- Nipple discharge
- Changes in the size, shape, or feel of the breast and or nipple
- Dimpling or puckering of the nipple
story by KIMBERLY JENSEN, ARNP-C
BIO: Kimberly Jensen is a certified advanced registered nurse practitioner who has been a registered nurse for 21 years and a nurse practitioner for 3 years. She currently serves patients at Women’s Health Center in Winter Haven with Dr. James J. Booker. Dr. Booker is a board-certified gynecologist who also serves patients through Bartow Regional Medical Center.