One in every eight women in this country can expect to get breast cancer at some point in her life. The National Breast Cancer Foundation estimates that 276,480 women will learn they have invasive breast cancer this year, and 48,530 women will have noninvasive breast cancer. Sadly, 42,730 will likely die from this hideous disease.
While those stats may sound scary, the numbers are actually in your favor if you detect the cancer early. Almost everyone (99%) survives when they catch their breast cancer while it’s still localized in one area.
And that’s the good news we want to spread during October — Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Our mission is to obliterate breast cancer in the greater Atlanta, Georgia, area by getting the word out about early detection and treatment. And there’s no better place to get screened for breast cancer than right here at Innovative Women's HealthCare Solutions.
Dr. Melinda Miller-Thrasher envisioned a very different way to come alongside women seeking health and wellness, and she realized that dream in our unique spa-like facilities that provide a warm, comforting environment where you get the highest quality medical care in a personal, caring atmosphere.
And this month is a great time to come in and see how different women’s health care can be, starting with a mammogram. But mammograms aren’t the only tool at your disposal. Here’s what to do and what to look for to help you catch breast cancer before it gets out of control.
Self-care for your breasts
Although visual signs of breast cancer are rare, any changes in your breasts should be checked out by a medical professional. Performing a breast self-exam once a month is critical, because the more familiar you are with the look and feel of your own breasts, the easier it will be to detect a change.
Here are some things to watch for:
- Tender nipples
- Changes in breast size (swelling or shrinkage)
- Lumps or thickened tissue
- Dimpled skin (like an orange peel)
- Discharge from the nipple
- Redness or scaliness
- Inverted nipple
If you notice any of these symptoms, don’t panic — it doesn’t mean you have breast cancer. But it does mean you need to take the next step and come in for a professional exam and a mammogram.
Professional care for your breasts
You play a vital role in monitoring your own breasts and watching for changes, but early stages of cancer can’t always be seen or felt by the untrained eye or hand. Here’s what to expect.
Clinical breast exam
Doing your own breast exam is an important part of keeping an eye on your breast health, but a clinical breast exam is even more thorough. Our team is specially trained to spot the warning signs of breast cancer, even when you can’t.
This exam is similar to the one you do at home, but we have extensive experience with discerning between harmless lumps and those that might be cancerous. The way they feel and move alert us to potential problems. If we find anything of concern, we run further diagnostic tests.
A mammogram is simply an X-ray of your breasts to show the tissues inside and reveal any abnormal growths such as cysts, dense or fatty areas, and tumors. Often, this test shows us a fledgling problem before you even realize it’s there — and that’s the goal.
We recommend that all women over 40 get a mammogram every year or every other year. But, if you’re considered high risk for breast cancer, we urge you to come in more often.
Risk factors for breast cancer include:
- Family history of breast or ovarian cancer
- Starting menstruation before age 12 and starting menopause after 55
- Known genetic mutations (BRCA1 and BRCA2)
- Dense breast tissue
- History of radiation treatment
If your mammogram indicates an abnormal growth or other concern, again — don’t panic. This result means we need to look a little closer, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer.
If Dr. Miller-Thrasher determines there’s a reason to examine your breast tissue further, she may order a few more tests. An ultrasound and an MRI let us know if the mass detected by the mammogram is solid, and if it is, a biopsy takes a small sample of the tissue so we can examine it up close and check for cancerous cells.
Wherever your breast health journey takes you, you can count on us at Innovative to be right there next to you every step of the way. So take control of your health in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month. Call us at either of our two offices in Smyrna/Vinings or Downtown Atlanta or request an appointment online today.