By Elaina Averett
Nurse Practitioner, Good Sam Clinic
About 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer during the course of her lifetime. It is important for women to understand that having an abnormal mammogram does not mean they have breast cancer. When a woman has their very first mammogram they may "fail" or have it show up as "abnormal," because radiologists compare old mammograms to new ones and if it's a patient's very first one we have nothing to compare it to.
Self-breast exams should be the focus of men and women until mammograms begin. The breast exams for females need to be before or after their cycles, because hormones can cause short term changes in the breasts, such as fibrocystic changes, and they should understand how to properly check themselves. Self-breast exams do not take the place of a mammogram and should be an addition to a mammogram once per year.
As one of the providers at Good Samaritan Clinic, I have a lot of patients who have breast concerns, are looking for peace of mind, want to learn about breast health and ways to decrease their chances of being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Women and men are both at risk for developing breast cancer, especially if someone in the family has been diagnosed with breast cancer, carries the BRCA 1 or 2 gene, CHEK 2 gene, or has pancreatic cancer. We suggest that a patient start mammograms 10 years earlier than the youngest diagnosed family member, for example if someone has a grandmother who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 45, then the daughter and granddaughter need to start having mammograms at the age of 35 instead of 40. By starting the screening process earlier, the survival rate is much greater with early detection. It is recommended that women with dense breast tissue have a mammogram and breast ultrasound once a year. Dense breast tissue shows up white on a mammogram and cancer shows up white. So, imagine looking for something white in a background of white. It is difficult and that is where a breast ultrasound helps - cancer will show up black on the screen.
Men are born with a small amount of breast tissue and they can develop breast cancer. The recommendation for men at a higher risk of developing breast cancer is to have a clinical breast exam performed every year, learn how to perform self-breast exams, and learn the warning signs of breast cancer. The signs and symptoms include: a painless lump or thickening in your breast tissue or armpit, changes to the skin covering your breast, such as scaling, redness, dimpling, or puckering, changes to your nipples, such as scaling or redness, or a nipple that begins to turn inward, unusual increases in the size of one breast, unusual swelling in the armpit, and discharge from your nipple.
The types of breast cancer diagnosed in men include ductal carcinoma, the most common breast cancer in males, in which the cancer begins in the milk ducts, lobular carcinoma, cancer that begins in the milk-producing glands, which is rare in men because they have few lobules in their breast tissue. There are rarer types of breast cancer that can occur in men, which include Paget’s disease of the nipple and inflammatory breast cancer.
Cancer warning signs:
•New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit).
•Thickening or swelling of part of the breast.
•Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.
•Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast.
•Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.
•Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood.
•Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.
•Pain in any area of the breast.