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Screening 101: Why early detection matters

According to the Georgia Breast Cancer Coalition, women in the U.S. face a one-in-eight chance of developing invasive breast cancer in their lifetime

According to the Georgia Breast Cancer Coalition, women in the U.S. face a one-in-eight chance of developing invasive breast cancer in their lifetime. Researchers at the National Cancer Institute expect the numbers of reported cases to climb in the coming years. So, knowing your risk level and taking steps to help ensure early detection are more important than ever before. Check out our breast cancer screening basics to take the first step.

Early detection is key
Screenings are the cornerstone of early detection. Risk factors—like family history, lifestyle and overall health—play a big part in how and when you should get screened.

At Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), Atlanta, patients with certain risk factors begin with a risk assessment that may help their care team categorize their risk for breast cancer from average to moderate to high. Some factors that can increase risk include:

  • A personal history of cancer, especially breast or ovarian cancer
  • A family history of multiple members diagnosed with breast, ovarian, prostate and/or pancreatic cancer
  • A history of carcinogen exposure
  • A known genetic mutation or predisposition
  • Dense breasts

If it turns out you are on the lower end of the risk scale, screenings are relatively straightforward. After a clinical breast exam, your physician may recommend a diagnostic test like a mammogram. In many cases, age is a significant determinant of your need for a mammogram Generally, annual mammograms are recommended between the ages of 45 and 54 and the frequency drops to every two years after age 55.

If you are at higher risk for breast cancer, our team will take an in-depth approach to care, which may include more advanced diagnostic tests like a breast ultrasound or MRI, genetic testing, or surgical risk-reduction strategies.

Take action
The key to early breast cancer detection is action. With 40 percent of diagnosed breast cancers detected by women who feel a lump, self-examinations are crucial.

There are a few ways you can perform a self-check:

  • In the shower Check your breasts for lumps, thickening or hardened knots. Using the pads of your fingers, move around your breast in a circular motion. Start from the outside and work your way toward the center, taking note of anything unusual.
  • With a mirror
    Get a good look during your self-check. In front of a mirror, look for changes in contour, swelling, dimpling of skin or changes to your nipples. This is easiest when you put your palms on your hips and flex your chest muscles.
  • Lying down
    Before getting out of bed, use your pillow to help you check your breasts. Place it under your right shoulder, with your right arm behind your head. Next, using your left hand, move your fingers in a gentle, circular motion—covering the entire breast and armpit. Then, switch sides and do it again.
  • Beyond self-checks, make sure you’re up to date on screenings. At CTCA®, we make it easy to get in and get screened so you can know your risk and choose an action plan that fits. Our team of multidisciplinary cancer experts—from medical oncologists and surgeons to care managers and other clinicians—are all here, under one roof, in our comprehensive Breast Cancer Center.

    Remember, early detection is key. CTCA accepts most insurance plans or offers a $99 screening for those without insurance. Results are available within two business days. Call 770-400-6677 to schedule a screening today.