Fall has arrived and each October we remind area residents that it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time to join the annual effort to increase awareness of breast cancer and the importance of early detection. “About 1 in 8 women in the United States will get breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. That is an alarming statistic— although the good news is, through research and improvements in early detection and treatment, millions of women are surviving breast cancer today,” explains Tim Clark, Medical Imaging Director at Crossing Rivers Health.
The Mammography team at Crossing Rivers Health remind women to make healthy lifestyle choices, including scheduling their annual breast cancer screening. The new 3D™ Tomosynthesis Mammography at Crossing Rivers Health is the most advanced technology available to detect breast cancer and provides a superior mammogram for all breast types. The new technology captures 120 images of each breast to create a detailed, 3D image which allows the radiologist to see right through dense tissue in greater detail, helping to identify small calcifications that could be potential cancers.
Over a decade’s time, research shows more than half of women without cancer who get mammograms will be called back for more tests and one in 12 will be referred for a biopsy. That adds up to a lot of worry and unnecessary procedures. 3D mammography solves many of the issues of uncertainty and fear, by providing more images for the radiologist.
Tim Clark adds, “Crossing Rivers Health is able to provide any breast imaging service available within the Medical Imaging Department: breast ultrasound guided biopsies, stereotactic 3D biopsies, and breast MRI. We are pleased to offer the 3D mammogram at no extra charge. We believe every woman should have access to the benefits of 3D mammography, without the extra worry of having to pay more. You do not have to have your mammogram ordered by a doctor or other healthcare provider. We only need the name of your health care provider so that we may send him or her the final report.”
According to the American Cancer Society, simply being a woman is the main risk factor for breast cancer. Men can have breast cancer too, but breast cancer is about 100 times more common in women than in men. Some risk factors for breast cancer, such as age, can't be avoided. On the other hand, there are some risks that you can control. It's important to be aware both of the risks you can't change and of those you can do something about.
Risks you cannot control
- Family history. If people in your family have had breast cancer, you may have a higher risk for the disease. This is especially true if you have multiple close relatives who had breast cancer. Overall, less than 15 percent of women with breast cancer have a family member with the disease.
- Genes. Some gene mutations can increase your risk for breast cancer. If you inherit an altered BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, your risk of breast cancer increases dramatically. Other genes are under study for their role in the development of breast cancer.
- Age. Your risk of breast cancer increases sharply around age 55. That's part of the reason the ACS recommends regular mammograms for all women age 45 and older.
- Previous cancer. Having cancer in one breast increases your risk for cancer in the other breast or for a second cancer in the same breast.
- Early menarche. If your first menstrual period occurred before you were 12, your risk of breast cancer is slightly higher than women whose first period occurred later.
- Late menopause. Studies show that women who reach menopause after age 55 have an increased risk for breast cancer.
- Radiation therapy to the chest. Women who have had radiation therapy to the chest as children or young adults are at higher risk for breast cancer, especially if the therapy was given while the breasts were still developing in adolescence.
- Diethylstilbestrol (DES). If your mother took DES while she was pregnant with you, you have a higher risk of breast cancer. From 1938 until 1971, this drug was prescribed for some women to help prevent miscarriage.
- Some noncancerous breast changes. Some types of breast conditions are linked to a higher risk for breast cancer. Some conditions raise the risk only slightly, while others can raise it by as much as five times. If you've had a breast biopsy, your doctor can help you understand how the results reflect on your breast cancer risk.
Risks you can control
- Hormones. Using hormone therapy after menopause, especially if it includes estrogen and progesterone, increases breast cancer risk. Women who use oral contraceptives have a slightly higher breast cancer risk than women who have never used them.
- Obesity. Being overweight can increase breast cancer risk, especially after menopause. The increased risk seems to only apply to women who became overweight as adults.
- Alcohol. Research clearly shows that drinking alcohol increases breast cancer risk, according to the ACS. Women who have one drink a day have a slightly increased risk, and women who drink more than that have about 1.5 times the risk of women who don't drink alcohol.
- Exercise. Women who get regular exercise have a lower risk for breast cancer. A Women's Health Initiative study showed that 1.25 to 2.5 hours of brisk walking each week reduced women's breast cancer risk by 18 percent.
- Pregnancies. Women with no biological children have a higher risk for breast cancer, as do women who gave birth for the first time at age 30 or older.
- Breastfeeding. Women who breastfeed their children, especially if they breastfeed for 1.5 to 2 years, may have a lower risk of breast cancer.
Information provided by the American Cancer Society.
Crossing Rivers Health Mammography Department is accredited by the American College of Radiology (ACR) every three years and is inspected each April by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) using the Mammography Quality Standards Act (MQSA) guidelines. For additional information about this and other services available at Crossing Rivers Health, visit crossingrivers.org.
The Mammography Technologists at Crossing Rivers Health encourage you to schedule your screening mammogram and talk to the women in your life about doing the same.