Breast Cancer is a life-threatening disease that affects hundreds of thousands of women in the United States every year. It is one of the most serious issues affecting women’s health today. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, 202, 964 women in the United States were diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2007 (the most recent year numbers are available). That same year, 40,598 women in the United States died from Breast Cancer. Most of us have been touched by at least one person in our circle of friends or family who has been affected by this devastating disease.
Breast Cancer typically produces no symptoms when the tumor is small and most treatable. One of the biggest factors influencing Breast Cancer survival is the stage at diagnoses: the earlier it is detected and treated, the better the chances are for survival. Therefore, it is very important for women to follow the recommended screening guidelines for detecting Breast Cancer at an early stage, before symptoms develop.
The American Cancer Society guidelines for the early detection of Breast Cancer vary depending on a woman’s age. Yearly mammograms are recommended starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health. A Clinical Breast Exam (CBE) is recommended about every three years for women in the 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and over. Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and should promptly report any changes to their healthcare provider. Breast self-exam (BSE) is an option for women starting in their 20s. A small percentage of women (approximately less than 2% of women in the United States) should be screened with MRI in addition to Mammograms. This is due to a family history of Breast Cancer, a genetic tendency to develop Breast Cancer or certain other factors. If you think you might fall into this higher risk category, talk to your doctor about your history and whether you should have additional tests at an earlier age.