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Louisville, Ky. (October 8, 2019) – It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month once again, a time dedicated to raising awareness about a disease that affects about 1 in 8 women in the United States over the course of their lifetime, according to the National Cancer Institute. Jewish Hospital and Sts. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital, both part of KentuckyOne Health, are encouraging women to learn more about screenings and early detection.
While breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, statistics show many women are beating the disease. Breast cancer death rates have decreased nearly forty percent since 1990, according to the American College of Radiology, as a result of screenings and better treatment.
“There’s no question that
early detection can mean the difference between life and death,” said Christina
Clark, MD, mammography radiologist at Medical Center Jewish East and Sts. Mary
& Elizabeth Hospital. “The majority of women don’t experience any physical
symptoms prior to a diagnosis, so regular breast cancer screenings are
important to help catch cancer in the early stages.”
The American College of Radiology recommends women begin annual mammogram screenings starting at age 40 – even if they have no symptoms or family history of breast cancer. For women with a personal or family history of breast cancer, including the BRCA genetic mutation, the risk is elevated and earlier screenings may be recommended.
“There are a host of common risk factors for breast cancer that women should be aware of, such as being over the age of 60, having a family history of the disease or inherited gene mutations, and/or lifestyle factors including not having children, heavy drinking, lack of physical activity, using oral contraceptives, or using combined hormone therapy after menopause,” said Dr. Clark. “It’s important to talk to a physician about a screening if any of those risk factors apply to you.”
There are two screening options that may be recommended for breast cancer, including digital mammography and tomosynthesis. Traditional 2D digital mammography can be manipulated by the radiologist to get a better view of shadows, light and contrast. This can help identify whether a spot is a mass that needs to be investigated further, or simply an area of dense breast tissue.
Tomosynthesis, more commonly known as 3D mammography, was approved by the FDA in 2011 and has become another valuable tool in breast cancer detection. Tomosynthesis creates multiple slices of the breast tissue, giving reviewing physicians a clear vision of a mass that may be clouded by complex, overlapping breast tissue. This tool is especially useful for women with moderate to extremely dense breast tissue.
Now that Breast Cancer Awareness Month is here, make the time to schedule a mammogram if you are over age 40 or have risk factors for breast cancer. Getting a screening can help detect cancer early and give you peace of mind.