Thanks to increased awareness of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer and the use of screening mammograms, breast cancers are now being diagnosed at earlier stages.
Still, 180,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in the next year alone, and in most of those cases, the women diagnosed will have no identifiable risk factors. In fact, less than 10 percent of all cases of breast cancer are hereditary. That’s what makes early detection so important.
Although breast cancer is usually associated with women, one percent of all breast cancers actually occur in men. That’s why men also need to be aware of the relevant risk factors, including family history, and report any changes in their breasts to a physician.
The first step in early detection is education. With that in mind, here is some important information about breast cancer screening and diagnosis:
Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines
The following breast cancer screening guidelines are recommended by the American Cancer Society (ACS). For early detection of breast cancer, the ACS recommends:
Between ages 20 and 39
- Breast self-exam monthly.
- Clinical breast exam (an examination of your breasts by a doctor) every one to three years.
Age 40 and older
- Breast self-exam monthly.
- Yearly mammograms and clinical breast exams, continuing for as long as you are in good health.
If you’re at increased risk of breast cancer (e.g., family history, genetic predisposition, past breast cancer), talk to your doctor about the benefits and limitations of starting mammograms earlier, having additional tests (e.g., breast ultrasound or MRI) or having more frequent exams. Mammograms can be scheduled at any of our conveniently located Women's Health Centers. Mount Carmel also has a Cancer Risk Program that assists and supports individuals considered at high risk for developing breast cancer.
How is Breast Cancer Diagnosed?
A mammogram is the gold standard in fighting breast cancer. Mammograms are generally perfromed after a lump is felt or annually over the age of 40. At Mount Carmel’s Women’s Health Centers, each breast is digitally filmed from two different views. Afterward, the radiologist looks at the views against a special light to find clues that there might be an abnormality. Our state-of-the-art digital mammogram units allow for the manipulation of the films to better focus in on areas of suspicion – Your pictures can be zoomed in and out and the contrast adjusted even after the picture is taken, providing the radiologist with the clearest pictures possible. Occasionally additonal views of a breast are needed to obtain more specific information.
There are several types of procedures that are effective in determining whether a breast lump or abnormality is cancer. The method recommended by your doctor will depend on the size, location and number of affected areas, availability of equipment and your personal preference.
- Ultrasound — Ultrasound is a quick and painless procedure that may be used to determine whether a lump is a harmless cyst or a solid mass. Breast ultrasound is available in some physician offices and at our five Mount Carmel Women's Health Centers.
- Breast MRI — If a mammogram does not provide a good visualization of the breast (due to dense tissue or implants) a breast MRI can be used to provide a clearer picture. Breast MRI takes about 45-60 minutes and can be performed at one of our conveniently located imaging centers.
- Fine-Needle Aspiration — A very thin needle can be inserted into the tissue at the area of concern to withdraw cells and fluid from a lump or abnormal area. The sample is then sent to a lab for analysis. Needle aspirations are typically performed in a breast surgeon's office (a general surgeon who specializes in the breast).
- Ultrasound-Guided Core Biopsy — In this procedure, ultrasound is used to guide a biopsy needle into an area that appears abnormal on a mammogram or breast MRI but cannot be palpated. A cylinder of tissue (also called a core) is removed and sent to a lab for analysis. This procedure may be performed in a breast surgeon's office or at one of our Women's Health Centers.
- Stereotactic Biopsy — Stereotactic biopsy uses computerized pictures to guide a biopsy needle into the correct location to remove a tissue sample. Samples are then sent to the lab for analysis. Stereotactic biopsies are performed at the Women's Health Centers at Mount Carmel East, Mount Carmel West and Mount Carmel St. Ann's.
Mammograms are available at all five of our Women's Health Centers. For more information about breast cancer, early detection or how breast cancer is diagnosed – or to schedule a mammogram – call 614-234-2900.