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Early detection best breast cancer defense

Opinion Column

Shailaja Sappati

Shailaja Sappati

October is breast cancer awareness month and brings with it a lot of media and public interest in the subject. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer. The chance that breast cancer will be responsible for a woman’s death is about 1 in 36 (3 percent). The chance of developing invasive breast cancer at some time in a woman’s life is a little less than 1 in 8 (12 percent). In 2011, it is estimated that there will be 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 57,615 new cases of in situ breast cancer. There will be 39,520 breast cancer deaths.

All women are at risk for breast cancer. The two most important risk factors for breast cancer are being female and getting old. Most breast cancers and breast cancer deaths occur in women age 50 and older.

Although rare, young women can also get breast cancer. About 5 percent of all breast cancers occur in women under the age of 40. While risk is much lower among younger women, certain genetic factors like BRCA1 or 2 genetic mutations can put them at a higher risk for both breast and ovarian cancers.

No matter your age, you should become familiar with how your breasts look and feel. If you notice any changes, contact your health care provider without delay. Please contact your doctor right away if you notice:

  • Dimpling/puckering of the skin;
  • Hard knot or lump in the breast or underarm;
  • Nipple discharge (bloody or clear) that starts suddenly;
  • Swelling and redness of the breast;
  • Pulling in/inversion of the nipple;
  • Itchy, scaly rash or sore on the nipple.

Until more is known about preventing breast cancer, early detection and effective treatment offer the best defense against breast cancer mortality.

The ACR, ACS and ACOG all endorse annual screening mammograms for women age 40 and above. Early screening is advocated in a patient whose mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age/premenopausal (10 years prior to mother’s age at diagnosis) or those with a personal history of chest wall irradiation or gene (BRCA1.2) positivity.

At the Carlton Breast Health Center, state-of-the-art digital mammography, breast ultrasound including ultrasound guided biopsy and prone and upright stereotactic guided biopsies ductograms and needle localization procedures are available to provide quality care. We are one of eight centers in the state of Georgia to be ACR accredited in both breast MRI and MR guided biopsies. This past January our facility received accreditations for Center of Excellence in Breast imaging through the American College of Radiology and Center of Excellence in Breast Cancer through the American College of Surgeons.

Shailaja Sappati, MD, is a board certified radiologist and the medical director of the Carlton Breast Center at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital.