Paragon Breast Care has a three-pronged approach to screening asymptomatic women with a goal of maximizing the chances for early detection. We have found that when our patients participate in our combined three-part early detection program under the supervision of one of our breast surgeons, the chances of detecting an early and potentially curable breast cancer improve dramatically
Our experience has convinced us that women, who are given the proper instructions on self examination, are capable of finding small and potentially curable breast cancers. We have seen many cases over the years where a mammogram missed a cancer. The only reason that we were successful in early detection was that the woman was aware of a change in her breast because she did self examination, and she brought those changes to the attention of her doctor.
We recommend a routine yearly breast examination by a health care professional starting at age 20. In most cases this examination can be performed by a primary care physician. For women who are at high risk or who have special concerns, a yearly beast examination preformed by one of our breast surgeons along with a same day mammogram can be accomplished.
A yearly screening mammogram is the one test that has been scientifically proven to reduce breast cancer mortality. We believe that every woman from 40 years of age and older should have a yearly mammogram. Women with risk factors should consider starting mammography 10 years early than the age of their youngest first degree relative with breast cancer ( i.e. if you mother had breast cancer at age 45, you should have your first mammogram by age 35). Women with breast symptoms should have a diagnostic mammogram. The diagnostic mammogram focuses on the area of concern with additional views and usually an ultrasound is also performed. We have recently implemented a new digital mammography program, and we consider this to be a major technologic break-through.
Screening for breast cancer before there are symptoms can be important. Screening can help doctors find and treat cancer early. Treatment is more likely to work well when cancer is found early.
Your doctor may suggest the following screening tests for breast cancer.
- Screening mammogram
- Clinical breast exam
- Breast self-examination
You should ask your doctor about when to start and how often to check for breast cancer.
It is recommended that women in their 40s and older should have mammograms every 1 to 2 years. A mammogram is a picture of the breast made with x-rays. Women who are younger than 40 and have risk factors for breast cancer should ask their health care provider whether to have mammograms and how often to have them.
Mammograms can often show a breast lump before it can be felt. They also can show a cluster of tiny specks of calcium. These specks are called microcalcifications. Lumps or specks can be from cancer, precancerous cells, or other conditions. Further tests are needed to find out if abnormal cells are present.
If an abnormal area shows up on your mammogram, you may need to have more x-rays. You also may need a biopsy. A biopsy is the only way to tell for sure if cancer is present.
Mammograms are the best tool doctors have to find breast cancer early. However, mammograms are not perfect:
- A mammogram may miss some cancers.
- A mammogram may show things that turn out not to be cancer.
- Some fast-growing tumors may grow large or spread to other parts of the body before a mammogram detects them.
Clinical Breast Exam
During a clinical breast exam, your health care provider checks your breasts. You may be asked to raise your arms over your head, let them hang by your side, or press your hands against your hips.
Your health care provider looks for differences in size or shape of your breast. The skin of your breast is checked for a rash, dimpling, or other abnormal signs. Your nipples may be squeezed to check for fluid.
Using the pads of the fingers to feel for lumps, your health care provider checks your entire breast, underarm, and collarbone area. A lump is generally the size of a pea before anyone can feel it. The exam is done on one side, then the other. Your health care provider checks the lymph nodes near the breast to see if they are enlarged.
You may perform monthly breast self-examinations to check for any changes in your breasts. It is important to remember that changes can occur because of aging, your menstrual cycle, pregnancy, menopause, or taking birth control pills or other hormones. It is normal for breasts to feel a little lumpy and uneven. Also, it is common for your breasts to be swollen and tender right before or during your menstrual period.
You should contact your health care provider if you notice any unusual changes in your breasts.
Breast self-examinations cannot replace regular screening mammograms and clinical breast exams.