October is breast cancer awareness month. Breast cancer affects both men and women, although according to the American Cancer Society men are about 100 times less likely than women to get breast cancer. About 2600 men will get breast cancer this year while breast cancer will affect 246,660 women this year. Breast cancer diagnoses account for about one third of all cancer diagnoses in women.
Prevention and early diagnosis are key to treating this disease and having a good outcome.
Genetic risk remains a concern for many women. However, less than 15% of all breast cancer is related to known genetic factors such as BRCA 1 or 2. Patients with these genes have a much higher risk than the general population of getting breast cancer. Patients should always tell their physicians about any family members with breast or any other types of cancer that run in the family.
Several societies have made recommendations as to the timing of mammography. Typically, in those patients with a strong family history the first mammogram is performed ten years prior to the diagnosis of the affected family member. Per the American Cancer Society, patients with a normal risk for breast cancer should have the opportunity to have their first yearly mammogram at age 40. However, all women should have their first mammogram no older than 45. Again, timing is based on an individual’s preference, values, and risk. Talk to a physician at Florida Surgical Clinic about your risk and timing of screening.
If you feel a breast mass or abnormality you should talk to your physician. Many breast abnormalities are not cancerous but a mass or abnormal drainage still deserves adequate investigation. This starts with a physical exam followed by radiologic tests such as ultrasound, mammography, and possibly a MRI. Depending on the results the mass can be totally excised or biopsied with a small needle. Only pathology can tell if a mass is cancerous or not, although radiographic findings are often suggestive.
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