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Next to skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, with one in eight women diagnosed in her lifetime. The good news is that breast cancer screening can detect this lethal threat at an earlier, more treatable stage. The bad news, as reported in the journal Cancer, is that after years of increasing screening rates, fewer women are now getting the regular mammograms that could save their lives.
Physicians and cancer organizations continue to recommend that mammograms become a routine part of a woman's health care — particularly as you age.
"As you pass age 40 the risk of getting breast cancer increases," explains Dr. M. Sandy Norton, a Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center-affiliated oncologist. "Some organizations recommend screening every 2 years after age 40, and every year after age 50. Other organizations, including the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommend every year after age 40."
Because certain women with risk factors should be screened earlier, your doctor can determine what's best for you. Here are common breast cancer risk factors:
In addition to mammograms, the ACS recommends that women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam by a health care professional as part of a regular health exam, preferably every three years.
"Mammograms are not recommended earlier because while you are still menstruating the breasts are dense and you cannot see as well calcifications or abnormalities of the breast," Dr. Norton adds. "For this reason, clinical exams and self-breast exams are more important in the younger age group."
In fact, performing a self-breast exam can help you get to know how your breasts normally look and feel, which can help you spot changes. Your physician can advise you about what to look for in a self exam and explain the correct technique. Finally, any changes you notice in your breasts should be mentioned to your doctor right away. Put the power of breast cancer prevention in your hands — get screened today.
Find a San Diego OBGYN
To find a Sharp-affiliated doctor, search for a San Diego OBGYN or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm.