October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer found in women in the United States affecting more than 250,000 per year. This means that one in eight women will develop breast cancer during their lives. Around 85% of women with breast cancer have no family history of breast cancer.

What are the risk factors for Breast Cancer?
The biggest risk factors for breast cancer are:

  • Being female and getting older
  • Family history of breast cancer is also a risk factor along with personal history of breast cancer
  • Chest radiation before thirty
  • Certain benign breast lesions
  • Being Caucasian (although African Americans tend to develop more aggressive forms)
  • Being overweight
  • Exposure to hormones (early onset of periods and hormone replacement therapy)
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Lack of exercise
  • Smoking among other things

Early detection is the cornerstone of breast cancer management.

At what age should I schedule a breast exam?
Women between the ages of 25 and 40 are recommended to see their primary care provider or gynecologist every 1-3 years for a breast exam. After the age of 40, it is recommended to be seen every year and to have a yearly mammogram as well.

What is the process if something was detected on my mammogram?
For some women, after a mammogram, the radiologist will recommend additional imaging modalities including breast ultrasound or MRI. If these show a concerning finding, most women will have a biopsy done in radiology using local anesthesia.

Less frequently, the radiologist will recommend that a surgeon perform an excision of the area of concern to ensure an adequate biopsy.

Depending on the results of a biopsy, a woman may then need to be seen by a surgeon for further recommendations for management.