The Benefits of Early Detection

Breast cancer is one of the most frequently diagnosed cancers in women, second only to lung cancer in cancer-related deaths among women. In 2009, almost 180,000 women will discover they have breast cancer. What can you do about this? Early detection is key. The earlier breast cancer is detected, the better the chance treatment will be successful.

When should you be screened for breast cancer? That depends on your risk factors. Keep in mind that if you are at a higher risk for breast cancer due to familial history, genetics, or other factors, you will be on a different schedule than the general public and will need to start being screened more frequently and at a younger age. Speak with your health care provider and come up with a schedule to suit your specific needs.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) Guidelines recommends women in their 20's and 30's have a clinical breast exam (CBE) by a qualified health professional every 3 years. Healthy women over 40 should be examined every year, with a mammogram as part of this yearly exam. Again, speak with your health professional to determine when and how often you should have a mammogram if you have other risk factors.

Women at high risk should get an MRI and a mammogram every year. Women at moderately increased risk should talk with their doctors about the benefits and limitations of adding MRI screening to their yearly exam.

A large part of early detection is self-examination. Women should be familiar with the look and feel of their own breasts and promptly report any changes to their health care providers. Breast self-exams (BSE) should begin when a woman is in her 20's. This way she can become familiar with her breasts when they are healthy, and it will be easier to detect any subtle changes early.

If you do find a lump or a change that concerns you, you should make an appointment with your health care provider to have a thorough exam. Do not worry your doctor will think you are overreacting, and don't let embarrassment prevent you from making that call. Early detection is vitally important and only your health professional, through a thorough exam and any necessary tests, can make a diagnosis.

References and Other Resources:

American Cancer Society Prevention & Early Detection: "Finding Cancer Early, American Cancer Society

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