Breast Cancer Awareness: Risk Factors & Screening Prep
According to the CDC, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. While it’s possible for anyone to develop breast cancer, women over the age of 55 are at the highest risk of developing this disease.
The best way to stay on top of your health is early detection and regular exams. Learn more about your risk factors, and when you should prepare for a mammogram below.
Understanding Your Risk Factors
However, there are a number of factors that could lead to you being at a higher risk of developing breast cancer. These factors include:
- A family history of breast cancer.
- Women who have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.
- Women who have had a //prior breast cancer diagnosis.
- Women who have dense breast tissue.
Patients who are at a very high risk of breast cancer include those who:
- Have a lifetime risk of breast cancer of about 20% to 25% or greater.
- Have a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation.
- Have a first-degree relative with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation.
- Have had radiation therapy to the chest between the ages of 10 and 30 years.
- Have Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Cowden syndrome, or Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome.
- Have a first-degree relative with one of the above syndromes.
Performing Self-Checks at Home
Breast self-exams help you find noticeable lumps in your breast at home, either before or in between mammograms. You should perform a self-exam in:
- The shower.
- In front of a mirror.
- In bed, laying down.
Visually examine your breasts, and use your three middle fingers to press down with pressure across your breast. Repeat this laying down, as your breast tissue will spread out further. If you find a lump — don’t jump to panic. 8 out of 10 lumps are not cancerous.
Mammograms can show hidden abnormalities in breast tissue, which means you should still have routine mammograms later in life even if you complete breast self-checks at home.
When To Have Your First Mammogram
A mammogram is a breast cancer screening exam that provides an X-ray image of your breasts. They can either be done in 2D or 3D, an even more advanced and detailed option. Mammographies have two purposes: to detect changes in the breast through screenings and to explore a specific area of the breast through diagnostics.
The American Cancer Society recommends the following updated guidelines when determining when to start regular mammogram screenings:
- Women between 40 and 44 can start screening with a mammogram every year.
- Women 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
- Women 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every other year, or continue yearly mammograms.
- Breast cancer screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live at least 10 more years.
Higher Risk Patients
Additionally, women who are at higher risk of developing breast cancer may benefit from mammogram screenings before the age of 40 — making it important to know your family history and risk factors. If you are at high risk, you should consult with your doctor on how often you should do diagnostic testing for early detection.
What to Expect
Typically, a mammogram appointment is very short — taking only about 10 to 15 minutes. If you’ve talked to a loved one, you may have heard that getting a mammogram can be uncomfortable. Here are a few ways to help prepare and make this experience go as easy as possible:
- Ensure the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has certified the facility that will be conducting your mammogram.
- Schedule a mammogram when your breasts are likely to be tender, such as a week before or during your period.
- Avoid wearing deodorant, lotions, or perfume under your arms or on your breasts. These products contain metallic particles that can show up on your mammogram, making it more challenging to read your results.
- If you’re nervous about your appointment, have a friend or family member take you there for support.
Arlington Digital Imaging Services
While going for a mammogram or any other cancer diagnostic screening can be emotional for many women, it’s also vital for early detection. Many women don’t discover they have cancer until they’ve had a mammogram, but the earlier it’s discovered, the better the likelihood of remission.
With up-to-date imaging technology and highly experienced technicians on-site, our diagnostic images and impressions at PrimeCare Emergency Center have a swift turnaround time and are highly reliable. From digital x-ray imaging to ultrasound imaging, CT scanning, and mammography screenings, our skilled team of radiology experts is here to support you.
For more information, contact our team today: (682) 253-6655