Jennifer Cunningham, MD -
Valley Health Shenandoah Memorial Hospital Family Medicine | Mt Jackson
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a disease in which cells in the breast grow out of control. There are
different kinds of breast cancer. The kind of breast cancer depends on
which cells in the breast turn into cancer.
What are common risk factors?
Genetic mutations. Inherited changes (mutations) to certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2.
Women who have inherited these
genetic changes are at higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
Getting older. The risk for breast cancer increases with age; most breast cancers are
diagnosed after age 50.
Reproductive history. Early menstrual periods before age 12 and starting menopause after age
55 expose women to hormones longer, raising their risk of getting breast cancer.
Having dense breasts. Dense breasts have more connective tissue than fatty tissue, which can
sometimes make it hard to see tumors on a mammogram.
Automated Breast Ultrasound Screening (ABUS) is available at Winchester Medical Center. Mammography alone is less sensitive
in those with dense tissue, and some women benefit from an ABUS screening
in addition to their yearly mammogram.
Personal history of breast cancer or certain non-cancerous breast diseases. Women who have had breast cancer are more likely to get breast cancer
a second time. Some non-cancerous breast diseases such as atypical hyperplasia
or lobular carcinoma
in situ are associated with a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
Family history of breast cancer. A woman’s risk for breast cancer is higher if she has a mother,
sister, or daughter (first-degree relative) or multiple family members
on either her mother’s or father’s side of the family who
have had breast cancer. Having a first-degree male relative with breast
cancer also raises a woman’s risk. This does not mean that you do
not have to have a annual mammogram because you have no history of breast
cancer. More than 75% of women with breast cancer have no family history,
and only 5-10% of breast cancer patients have the genetic form of breast cancer.
Previous treatment using radiation therapy. Women who had radiation therapy to the chest or breasts (like for treatment
of Hodgkin’s lymphoma) before age 30 have a higher risk of getting
breast cancer later in life.
Women who took the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES), which was given to some pregnant women in the United States between 1940
and 1971 to prevent miscarriage, have a higher risk. Women whose mothers
took DES while pregnant with them are also at risk.
What are common symptoms?
- A new lump or mass in the breast or underarm.
- Any change in the size or the shape of the breast. These might include
thickening, swelling, distortion, tenderness, skin irritation, redness,
scaliness and nipple abnormalities.
- Pain in any area of the breast.
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk (including blood).
www.knowyourlemons.com (Corrine Ellsworth Beaumont, PhD - founder of the nonprofit "Worldwide
How do I get screened?
- Monthly self-exams.
- For women of average risk of breast cancer, recently updated American Cancer
Society screening guidelines recommend:
- Those 40 to 44 years of age have the option to begin annual mammography,
those ages 45 to 54 should have annual mammography, and those 55 years
of age and older may transition to mammography every two years or continue
- For some women at high risk of breast cancer, annual breast MRI is recommended
in addition to mammography, typically starting at age 30.
Screening Opportunities at Valley Health
- The most advanced mammogram technology is available at all six Valley Health
Hospital Imaging locations. To schedule a mammogram, please call 855-724-3384.
- Any woman can benefit from the additional detail from 3D imaging but most
especially women with dense breast tissue or risk factors, like a family
history of breast cancer. The added value of a 3D mammogram is that it
reduces or removes overlapping tissue, particularly in a woman with dense
breast tissue on mammogram. To schedule your 3D mammogram, please call
Automated Breast Ultrasound Screenings (ABUS)
- A physician referral for this screening is required, so talk to your doctor
about the benefits of Automated Breast Ultrasound. ABUS is available at
the Outpatient Diagnostic Center located on the campus of Winchester Medical
Center. To make an appointment, please call 855-724-3384
Facts about Breast Cancer:
- Each year in the United States, more than 240,000 women get breast cancer
and more than 40,000 women die from the disease.
- Men also get breast cancer, but it is not very common. Less than 1% of
breast cancers occur in men.
Most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old or older, but
breast cancer also affects
younger women. About 10% of all new cases of breast cancer in the United States are
found in women younger than 45 years of age.
- Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women, with about
one in eight women developing the disease in her lifetime. Thanks to improvements
in early detection, the female breast cancer death rate declined by 38%
from its peak in 1989 to 2014, but breast cancer is the second leading
cause of cancer death in women.
Early detection saves lives. Please talk with your doctor or healthcare
provider about your personal breast cancer risk and prevention strategy
including regular breast exams and mammograms. Remember to report any
breast lump or change to your doctor. If it’s time for your regular
mammogram, schedule it today!