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Posted: Monday, October 16, 2023

Breast Health and Mammograms

According to the Mayo Clinic, breast cancer is the second most diagnosed cancer in women in the United States, following skin cancer. Approximately one out of every eight women of average risk will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. The American College of Radiology and the Society of Breast Imaging recommend annual breast cancer screenings begin at age 40. The American Society of Breast Surgeons recommends a formal risk assessment at age 25, especially for those with a family history of breast cancer or who are at high risk.

Regular monthly self-exams are an excellent option to ensure breast health. But what do you look for during your exam? Some symptoms of breast cancer involve the presence of a lump that feels like a small, hard rock, or a change in the appearance or size of the breast.  Irregularities such as discharge, rash, redness, pain, dimpling or inverted nipples are major indicators. Treatment for breast cancer depends on the type of cancer but can include a combination of chemotherapy, surgery, hormone therapy or radiation. Early detection also can alter the type of treatment needed, which is why mammograms are important. Breast cancer survival rates have increased significantly partially due to early detection by mammograms.

What is a mammogram?  It is an x-ray of the breast tissue. Based on the size of your breasts and how much compression is needed for the image, it can be uncomfortable for some women, but most do not experience pain. Regular mammograms are the best tests doctors have for detecting cancer, sometimes up to three years before a lump can be felt.     

A digital breast tomosynthesis, also called DBT, is 3-D like mammography using an X-ray tube that moves over the breast in an arc, creating multiple images put together with the help of a computer to imitate a 3-D image. “A 3-D mammogram is a lot more comfortable than a 2-D” says Donna Brabson, manager at Blount Memorial’s Breast Health Center. Comparing old mammograms with new ones are the best way to detect changes in breast tissue and why yearly screenings are important.

“Developing breast cancer is not your fault,” said fellowship-trained radiologist Dr. Kristen Carver from LeConte Radiology. “Breast cancer is caused by a genetic mutation or mistake. A small fraction of breast cancer mutations can be inherited from a biological parent. However, 85 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of breast cancer. This statistic shows that most of the mutations accounting for breast cancer happen as a random result of the aging process. This statistic also stresses the importance of yearly screening mammograms regardless of family history,” Carver said.

For more information or to schedule your annual screening mammogram, call the Blount Memorial Breast Health Center at 865-977-5590.

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