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There's Not Always a Lump
This article first appeared in the Fall 2018 Beacon magazine. READ THE ISSUE.
For some patients, there is never a noticeable lump or any symptoms leading up to the diagnosis of breast cancer. That’s why Luisa Galdi, DO, Board-Certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist, advocates for women to have yearly screening mammograms at age 40.
In the past, it was recommended that all women practice monthly “self-breast exams.” However, most breast cancer screening guidelines recommend against this practice. Average-risk women are now encouraged to practice “breast self-awareness” instead.
So why do we emphasize this change? Well, Dr. Galdi often explains it to her patient’s like this: “It is important to know what is normal for you, so that anything abnormal is very obvious and just jumps out at you.”
Be Breast Self-Aware
The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age, so starting to know your breasts as early as possible is the key to optimal breast self-awareness. Changes in how your breasts feel may be simply due to natural hormonal changes. Specifically, women who menstruate may notice subtle differences in their breasts during their cycle, including sensitive areas, additional pain, or even swelling.
Signs of trouble
So how do you know when to be concerned? Talk to your care provider immediately if you notice a lump, hard knot, or thickening inside the breast or underarm area; swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast; change in the size or shape of the breast; dimpling or puckering of the skin; itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple; pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast; nipple discharge that starts suddenly; or new pain in one spot that doesn’t go away.
Don’t wait until you have a concern to make your appointment! It is important to see your gynecologist or primary care physician yearly to identify and discuss risk factors for breast cancer and to talk about changes in her overall health.
Advanced Imaging Technology with 3D
While not all women benefit equally from a 3D mammogram, there aren’t any downsides to having your regular screening with this advanced technology, says Ellen Bahtiarian, MD, FACOG, Board-Certified Diagnostic Radiologist and Nuclear Medicine physician. In fact, the radiation dose is nearly equal to that of traditional 2D mammography.
“Studies have shown that the cancer detection rate is higher for 3D mammography, and the recall rate (need to return for additional images to clarify a finding) following a 3D screening mammogram is lower,” she says. “While every woman can benefit from 3D mammography, the benefits are greatest for women with dense breasts since having dense breasts can increase the risk of breast cancer and can make breast cancer harder to see on a mammogram.”
If you are concerned you might have breast cancer, contact Debbie Campbell, Beebe’s Cancer Screening Nurse Navigator, at (302) 645-3169. Debbie can connect you with a screening or diagnostic mammogram and with resources for your health journey.
2 Types of Mammograms
This is your yearly mammogram for those who do not have a breast problem. Four standard views are obtained, and the images are interpreted by the radiologist after you have left the facility. The American College of Radiology recommends annual screening mammograms beginning at age 40.
This is for women who have found a lump or have another problem such as pain, a history of breast cancer, or who have been recalled to evaluate a finding on a screening mammogram. The results of a diagnostic mammogram are reviewed right away by a radiologist. In some cases, more images or a breast ultrasound are completed at that time.
3D mammography improves Beebe’s radiologists’ ability to see abnormalities in dense breast tissue and reduces the number of return visits. If your physician recommends a mammogram, Beebe offers advanced 3D mammography at its Diagnostic Imaging centers in Millville, Georgetown, and Rehoboth Beach.
For more information on 3D mammography, visit www.beebehealthcare.org/3-D-mammo.