The American Cancer Society updated their guidelines on cancer screening. I’m going to update myself (and you!) with those. This will be broken up into a few blogs. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, it’ll be reviewed first.
Breast exam. Breast cancer screening is guided by age in the average-risk woman. Between 20 and 39 women should have breast exam by a physician every three years and then annually at age 40. During this exam, the provider should discuss how to perform a self-breast exam (and the potential benefits, limitations and harms associated with it). Women should be aware and watch for breast changes. Discuss with your physician a breast or ovarian cancer family history—most important in first- and second-degree relatives (like a mother and aunt).
Mammograms. These should begin at 40 and continue yearly. The benefits of mammograms are the reduction in the risk of dying from breast cancer and, if cancer is detected, less aggressive measures may be needed. This may translate to taking out a lump of breast tissue instead of the entire breast, less aggressive adjunctive treatment and more treatment options. Mammograms may not detect all cancers and some cancers will have devastating outcomes. Biopsies may be performed when possibly the breast cancer would not have been fatal meaning possibly it was an unneeded procedure. Mammography should be continued as long as the woman would be physically able to endure breast cancer treatment. There is no upper age at which mammograms need to be discontinued.
Are you in need of a check-up?