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  • Writer's pictureDr. Raisa Lerner

Breast Cancer Awareness

Breast cancer is the most frequent type of non-skin cancer and the most frequent cause of cancer death in women worldwide. It’s also the second most frequent cause of cancer death in United States women. Screening for breast cancer is essential and saves lives.

The majority of breast cancers in the United States are diagnosed as a result of an abnormal screening study. Screening mammography both reduces the odds of dying of breast cancer and facilitates the use of early treatment, which has led to a decrease in mortality.

Recommendations for breast cancer screening are individualized based on a woman’s risk.

Regular breast cancer screening using routine mammograms is appropriate for the average risk woman. Adequate breast compression is necessary to obtain good quality mammograms. Other radiologic techniques, including ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), are reserved for further evaluation of findings on mammography or for screening of women at a higher risk for breast cancer.

Women with increased breast cancer risk may require earlier initial screening and/or more frequent imaging studies. Whole-breast ultrasound screening can detect early-stage breast cancers that are mammographically not visible in women with dense breast tissue. When used as a supplement to mammography, ultrasound can improve the sensitivity of screening.

Major factors affecting risk category, based on a patient’s history, are:

  1. Personal history of breast, ovarian, tubal, or peritoneal cancer

  2. Family history of breast, ovarian, tubal, or peritoneal cancer

  3. Ancestry (eg, Ashkenazi Jewish) associated with BRCA1 or mutations

  4. Known carrier of a pathogenic mutation for a hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome in self or relative

  5. Previous breast biopsy indicating high-risk lesion (eg, atypical hyperplasia)

  6. Radiotherapy to the chest between age 10 and age 30

It is important to be aware of breast cancer risks and speak to your doctor about any breast concerns. As with any cancer, early detection can make a big difference in prognosis.

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