Breast Cancer Screening Essential for Women of All Ages

Focus on the Cure

Dr. Meghana BhandariTexas Oncology–Sugar Land

Dr. Meghana Bhandari
Texas Oncology–Sugar Land

Over the past decade, news and information about breast cancer has helped increase awareness about the disease tremendously. While awareness of breast cancer has improved, the disease unfortunately remains the second deadliest cancer among American women.

Early detection with regular mammograms remains the single most effective way to combat breast cancer. As physicians, we know that the earlier we can detect the disease, the more likely the patient will survive. When detected early before it spreads, women have a 99 percent survival rate after five years.

While this all may sound very simple, at our Texas Oncology practice, we see many women with more advanced stages of breast cancer. It is estimated that this year alone in Texas, 17,348 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and 3,178 women will die from the disease. Many of these deaths are preventable with yearly mammograms, especially for women over the age of 40.

While mammograms will detect most breast cancers in women who don’t have symptoms, they are not the only way to detect the signs of breast cancer. Women can screen themselves for signs of breast cancer through monthly breast self-exams, which they should begin to administer in their 20s. Any irregularities or concerns that are detected should immediately be reported to a physician.

Clinical breast exams are recommended for women in their 20s and 30s every three years and every year for women over 40 for the early detection of breast cancer. If recommended by a physician, women ages 40 and older should also consider an annual MRI screening. Finding breast cancer in early, more treatable stages leads to higher survival rates.

Screening is especially important for women who have increased risk factors for breast cancer. However, it is important to remember that even women without clear risk factors should have regular screenings and mammograms. Risk factors may include:

Age: Approximately two-thirds of invasive breast cancer cases occur in women over age 55, though the disease can occur at any age.

Family History: If a woman’s mother, sister or grandmother had the disease, that woman potentially has an increased risk for breast cancer.

Diet and Exercise: Overweight and/or physically inactive women face a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

While screenings may detect cancer early on, it’s also important to watch out for warning signs and symptoms, including a lump in the breast, change in breast size or shape, redness, scaliness or thickening of nipple or breast, dimpled skin near the breast, a lump under the arm, tenderness, nipple retraction, nipple discharge, irritation on the breast, nipple or skin near the nipple and swelling of the breast. If any of these symptoms are detected, contact a physician immediately to start receiving proper medical care.

Researchers continue to make advances in the fight against breast cancer every day. Until a cure is found, regular screenings, awareness and healthy lifestyle choices are among the best tools a woman has to reduce her risk and survive the disease.