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Jolanta Cichon: Breast Cancer Screenings Essential to Save Lives

Publication: Denton Record-Chronicle 

By: Jolanta Cichon

In the U.S., one in eight women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer during her lifetime. News and information about breast cancer has helped increase awareness about the disease tremendously. While awareness of breast cancer has improved, the disease unfortunately remains the second-deadliest cancer among American women.

This year in Texas, 17,132 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and 3,126 women will die from the disease. Men are at risk, too: 139 men in Texas are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017, with 30 cases proving fatal. In Denton County specifically, 454 women will be diagnosed and 81 will die as a result.
Other than adopting a healthier lifestyle, early detection with regular mammograms remains the single most effective way for combating the disease.

As physicians, we know that the earlier we can detect the disease, the more effective treatment can be. When detected early before it spreads, women have a 99 percent survival rate after five years.
We've made tremendous strides due in part to awareness about the importance of screening and early detection. Mammograms can detect the majority of breast cancer in women, but they are not the only way to identify breast cancer.

Women should begin monthly breast self-exams in their 20s, and should report any changes to a physician immediately. Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam every three years.

Women in their 30s should discuss their breast cancer risk level with a physician to determine the most appropriate cancer screening options, including mammograms and MRI screenings.

Women age 40 and older should discuss individual risk factors with a physician to determine recommended timing and most appropriate screenings, including annual mammogram, annual clinical breast exam and annual MRI screening.

Women age 50 and older should have a mammogram and a clinical breast exam at least every two years after discussion with her physician, and if recommended by a physician, an annual MRI screening. If any changes in the breast are detected, contact a physician immediately to be evaluated.

A common myth I hear is that only women who have a family history of the disease develop breast cancer. While the majority of cancer happens by chance, about 5 percent to 10 percent of people with cancer have an inherited cancer.

Women with a family history of breast cancer should discuss genetic testing with their physician. If genetic tests indicate a woman is BRCA-positive, there are a number of risk-reduction strategies to discuss with her physician.

Family history isn't the only pertinent risk factor; age, diet, and exercise can also impact risk. Approximately two-thirds of invasive breast cancer cases occur in women over age 55, though the disease can occur at any age. Being overweight and/or physically inactive increases your risk.

While screenings can help detect cancer, it's also important to watch for warning signs and symptoms.

The signs for breast cancer are not the same for all women, and some women show no signs in early stages.

  • A lump in the breast
  • Change in breast size or shape
  • Thickening of breast or underarm
  • Nipple retraction
  • Dimpled skin near the breast
  • Tenderness
  • Pain in breast or nipple
  • Nipple discharge
  • A lump under arm or around collarbone
  • Irritation, redness, scaliness, or swelling on the breast, nipple or skin near the nipple

If any of these symptoms are detected, contact a physician immediately to be evaluated.

If cancer is diagnosed, women have many treatment options, which can include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, proton therapy, targeted therapy, bone-modifying therapy or hormone therapy. A combination of treatments may be used to provide the best chance of disease control.

At Texas Oncology, our community-based cancer care gives patients the ability to receive most or all of their medical and support services under one roof, in the comfort of their own communities near the critical support of family and friends.

We provide high-quality care in just about every corner of Texas, including here in Denton.
Advances in the fight against breast cancer are made every day. At Texas Oncology, patients have the opportunity to take part in some of the most promising clinical trials in the nation for new drugs and treatments.

In fact, Texas Oncology has played a role in nearly 70 FDA-approved cancer-fighting drugs, about one-third of all cancer therapies approved by the FDA to date.

Until a cure for breast cancer is found, regular screenings, awareness and healthy lifestyle choices such as eating well and exercising regularly are among the best tools a woman has to reduce her risk of developing the disease.

Dr. Jolanta Cichon is a medical oncologist at Texas Oncology-Denton North, 2900 N. Interstate 35, Suite 401, in Denton.


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