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Breast Cancer Peace of Mind
4 noninvasive ways to fight breast cancer
Lynn Canavan, M.D., breast surgeon on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center - Plano, outlines four simple, painless ways to detect and assess your risk for breast cancer.
1. Family History and Genetic Testing
Your family history of cancer—primarily breast and ovarian, but others too—has a lot to do with your breast cancer risk.
Women with a personal and/or a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer may take the blood test for inherited mutations of BRCA1 and BRCA2, the “breast cancer genes.” The average woman has a 12 percent risk of developing breast cancer during her lifetime; the BRCA mutations increase that 50 to 80 percent.
“For women with the BRCA mutations, we recommend increased surveillance, such as a clinical breast exam and mammogram every six months instead of every year, or more detailed imaging such as breast MRI,” says Dr. Canavan. Some women opt for bilateral mastectomy, which reduces the risk of breast cancer by about 90 percent. There are also medications which can reduce risk of breast cancer by as much as 50%
It’s important to note that the BRCA mutations are responsible for only 5 percent to 10 percent of breast cancers, Dr. Canavan says. The vast majority of breast cancer occurs in women with no family history.
2. Clinical Breast Exam
The clinical breast exam (CBE) can detect early-stage breast cancers. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends women in their 20s and 30s begin having a CBE with their gynecologist or other health professional every year.
3. Annual Mammogram
Aside from the controversy, the annual mammogram starting at age 40 remains an important and effective screening tool.
A mammogram is essentially an X-ray of the breast. “It’s noninvasive, quick, and capable of detecting very early breast cancers, especially the digital mammography that we’re using now,” says Dr. Canavan. “We can detect much smaller and more subtle changes in breast tissue from year to year.”
4. Monthly Self-Exam
The monthly breast self-exam is recommended for women starting in their 20s. For an illustrated guide to the proper technique, visit the ACS website, cancer.org, and search for the “How to Perform a Breast Self-Exam” page.
Consistency is key, Dr. Canavan says. “Breast tissue is very dynamic; during the course of a month, various lumps and bumps come and go, caused by hormonal fluctuations, the immune system, caffeine intake and even stress. The idea is to become familiar with the normal look and texture of your own breasts so that anything different will immediately stand out.”
Perform your self-exam on the same day each month, (preferably immediately after menstruation has ceased as breasts are their least swollen at this time) and report anything suspicious to your doctor right away.
Have you had a mammogram this year? We offer convenient scheduling, including Saturdays. Call 1.800.4BAYLOR to schedule yours at one of Baylor Scott & White - Plano’s three convenient locations.
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