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The Importance Of Screening For Breast Cancer

Publication: Palestine Herald-Press

With one in eight U.S. women developing breast cancer in her lifetime, what can women do to reduce their risk of a late-stage breast cancer diagnosis?

Other than adopting a healthier lifestyle, early detection with regular mammograms remains the most effective way for combating breast cancer. Understanding when and why to schedule regular screenings and knowing the signs and symptoms can result in better outcomes and lower breast cancer-related deaths among women.

Why are screenings important?

As a result of the pandemic, less people are going into doctors’ offices for their annual checkups and screenings, leading to more cancer diagnoses being caught late. Early detection is key because cancer in its early stages and localized to one location, is the most treatable. Screenings can detect cancerous cells before symptoms show, allowing patients to start treatment before the cancer has a chance to spread.

People who receive regular mammograms are more likely to detect cancer early, require less aggressive treatment, and have better outcomes. According to the American Cancer Society, early-stage breast cancer that hasn’t spread has a 99 percent five-year survival rate, versus a 29 percent five-year survival rate for cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

Signs and symptoms

While a lump in the breast, under the arm, or around the collarbone is the most well-known symptom of breast cancer, other indicative symptoms include:

  • Change in breast size or shape  
  • Thickening of breast or underarm  
  • Nipple retraction or nipple discharge  
  • Dimpled skin or skin resembling orange peel   
  • Tenderness or pain in breast or nipple 
  • Irritation, redness, scaliness, or swelling on the breast, nipple, or skin near the nipple   
  • Swollen lymph nodes  

If you notice any of these symptoms, consult your physician immediately.

When should people get screened?

Women of every age should discuss individual risk factors with a physician to determine recommended timing and appropriate screenings. People with a family history of breast cancer, or who are known to be of higher risk, should start screening early and take further preventative measures. 

Beginning at age 20 and on, women should check their breasts monthly, note any changes, and report them to a physician immediately. Women aged 40 to 44 have the choice to start annual mammograms, and those aged 45-54 should get mammograms every year. Women aged 55 and older should have a mammogram at least every two years.

Take control of your health

Ultimately, it is up to patients to take control of their health and be proactive in taking preventative measures for early detection against breast cancer. Texas Oncology encourages all women to prioritize their long-term health with regular breast cancer screenings.

This article originally appeared in the Palestine Herald-Press

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