It could be a suspicious shadow on a mammogram. Or maybe you feel an odd lump on the side of your breast. The thought goes through your mind: Is it cancer? While both of those findings are cause for concern, keep in mind that there are many other benign possibilities that could cause those findings. Since early detection is one of your best weapons against any cancer, don’t delay getting to the doctor to discuss your concerns.
Just like any other cancer, breast cancer consists of abnormal tissue made from cells that have multiplied uncontrollably. Breast cancer often develops in the milk ducts or glands. Advanced breast cancer can travel to and metastasize in other areas of the body, including the lungs, liver or bones. While anyone- yes, even men- can get breast cancer, there are some risk factors to be aware of:
- Women who have a close family member (mother or sister) with breast cancer are two to three times more likely to get the disease.
- There are two genes linked to breast cancer: BRCA1 and BRCA2. Being a carrier of either gene increases the risk of breast cancer by 56-85%.
- Women over age 50
- African Americans
- Exposure to more estrogen: either in supplements or from starting menstruation earlier
- Diet high in fat
There are risk factors that cannot be changed, such as our age, genetics and heritage. Certain behaviors do lower the risk of developing cancer, including:
- Controlling weight gain
- Not smoking
- Limiting alcohol
- Getting enough exercise
- Cutting back on the fat in your diet
- Take vitamin D (it seems to have cancer-fighting powers)
Talk to your doctor about the potential risks and benefits of hormone therapy for menopause. Also keep in mind, taking these steps does not guarantee that a person will be cancer free. However, living a healthier lifestyle builds a stronger, more robust body and immune system.
Diagnostic Tests and MammoPad
Early detection is one of the best ways to beat cancer of any sort, especially breast cancer. Breast cancer screenings start with mammograms. A mammogram gives radiologists a good look at breast tissue, and can pinpoint potential problem areas in the breast.
Here at Medical Center Arlington, we offer a softer, gentler touch when it comes to mammograms. Our MammoPad is a soft foam cushion that goes between your breast and the surface of the scanner for a more comfortable experience. If you’ve ever canceled a mammogram appointment because of the discomfort associated with traditional mammograms, our MammoPad was made for you!
Many abnormal mammogram readings turn out to be nothing more than a benign condition such as a cyst. If your doctor suspects something abnormal, another mammogram, MRI or ultrasound may be ordered for a clearer picture. If more testing is needed to diagnose a potential problem spot, a radiologist may then order a biopsy of the tissue. A biopsy is necessary to correctly diagnose suspicious breast tissue cells. The doctor will remove the cells, usually with a needle, and view them under a microscope to determine whether they are cancerous. Biopsies are common procedures and are helpful in catching cancer early in its development.