Breast Health

Breasts mean a great deal to women.  They are part of what makes women feel feminine, and they play a role in their self-image, intimate life and how they nurture babies.  That is why any question, concern or threat to healthy breasts affects women at so many different levels.

Functionally, breasts are glands.  Like all glands, breasts have an important job – they make milk.  This happens in small sacks, or lobules, which deliver the milk through tiny “pipes”, call ducts, to the nipple during breast feeding.

What is Breast Cancer?

The body is made up of cells that move through phases much like life itself.  They grow, function, age and die.  A cell’s behavior is controlled by its genes.  When the genes don’t work correctly, the cells can grow out of control.  This uncontrolled growth can turn into breast cancer.  Genes can start a cancer for any number of reasons, including the wear and tear of living.  Breast cancer is not your fault.

What You Need to Know

  • Eight out of 10 of all lumps are non-cancerous.
  • 85% of breast cancers are diagnosed in early stages, which increase the chance for a cure.
  • Women discover the majority of breast lumps when they do a breast self-exam.
  • Mammograms can detect breast cancers early, when they are most treatable.
  • Most doctors recommend a mammogram every year after age 40.
  • Ultrasound is not a substitute for mammography.
  • A variety of breast biopsy methods are available.  Women can get an accurate diagnosis without the need for surgery.

Did You Know?

One in either women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer.

About 192,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year alone.

Are You at Risk for Breast Cancer?

The risk for breast cancer increases with:

  • Aging.
  • Early onset of menstruation and late menopause.
  • A family history of breast cancer – especially if it was your mother or sister.
  • Women who never get pregnant.
  • An unhealthy diet (high fat, low in fiber), too much alcohol and not enough exercise.
  • Smoking.
  • Obesity.

NOTE:  85% of women who have breast cancer have no family history of the disease.

Breast Cancer:  Healthy Tissue – Out of Control

Early Detection Saves Lives

  • Breast cancer is discovered by feeling a lump or by using an imaging technique to visualize, “look inside”, the breast (a mammogram or ultrasound).
  • 60% of breast cancers can be felt.  25% of all breast cancers are only found by palpation.
  • 75% of breast cancers can be found by mammography.
  • 40% of breast cancers are found only by mammography.
  • The rest are detected by both.  Once detected, the only definitive way to determine breast cancer is by removing a sample of beast tissue, also know as a breast biopsy.

Breast Cancer is Treatable

Not all breast cancers are the same.  That is why treatment varies from woman to woman.  Most often, a combination of approaches to remove or kill the abnormal cells and prevent further growth are used, which may include:

  • Mastectomy – removal of the entire breast.
  • Lumpectomy – removal of the breast lump.
  • Radiation – treatment with complex radiation equipment.
  • Chemotherapy – a group of drugs that can be gi9ven through a vein, with a shot or by taking a pill.
  • Hormonal therapy – treatment that reduces the amount of blocks the effects of estrogen, which is responsible for stimulating the growth of some breast cancers.

Defense Against Breast Cancer

Do a monthly three-step breast self-exam to examine your whole breast – from top to bottom, side to side and front to back.  Here’s how:

  • Stand in front of a mirror to look for lumps, thickenings, dimples or skin changes in your breasts:  

With your arms by your side

With your arms raised above your head with your hands pressing down at your hip/waistline.

  • In the shower, with one arm raised high, use your other hand to feel the opposite breast (right-hand feels the left breast, left hand feels the right breast).  Use your first three fingers to create a circular motion, feeling one small portion at a time.  Repeat on the other breast.
  • Lie down on your back with a pillow under your shoulder.  Repeat the motions in step 2.  Move the pillow under your other shoulder and do it again on the other side.
  • If you find a problem or suspicious area, contact your healthcare provider immediately.

This information is not a substitute for medical care.  As always, you should consult with your doctor or healthcare provider.

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