1. When should I begin getting mammograms?
You may have heard that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended delaying mammogram screening in women until age 50 in November 2009. These recommendations are controversial and contradict recommendations by the American Cancer Society, the American College of Surgeons and the American College of Obstetrician / Gynecologist. A recently published Swedish study in September 2010 showed a 29 percent reduction in breast cancer deaths in women age 40 to 49 who obtained breast cancer screenings. Breast cancer in the 40- to 49-year-old age group, the majority of whom are pre-menopausal, are often more aggressive and more deadly.
2. What if I have relatives with breast cancer? Don’t I need extra care?
Family history is a breast cancer risk factor. The lifetime risk is up to four times higher if a mother and sister are affected. The family history characteristics that suggest increased risk of cancer are as follows:
• Two or more relatives with breast or ovarian cancer.
• Breast cancer occurring in a relative who is less than 50 years old.
• Relatives with both breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
• One or more relative with two cancers (breast and ovarian cancer or two independent breast cancers).
• Male relatives with breast cancer.
If you have a first degree relative (a mother, sister or daughter) who has had breast cancer, you should begin screening with mammography 10 years prior to the age of your relative’s diagnosis. And, if you have two or more relatives with breast and/or ovarian cancer, you may want to consider BRAC genetic testing to determine if you are at risk even at a young age. Your primary care physician can help you determine if you are a candidate for this testing. BRAC gene positive females should begin mammography screening 20 to 25 years of age. But also keep in mind that according to the American Cancer Society (ACS), most women (85 percent) who get breast cancer do not have a family history of this disease.
3. I’m a busy professional and working mother. How can I remember to do my breast self exams?
Breast self awareness has been shown to be a valuable tool in detecting breast cancer. Self exams help you become familiar with your breasts so if something changes, you know it. To help you remember to do them monthly, you can sign up for a free “BreasText” reminder. Text the word “breast” to 72239 and you will receive a text message on your cell phone each month from Piedmont Hospital’s Doris Shaheen Breast Health Center reminding you to perform your breast self exams. And don’t forget to see your primary care physician for a clinical breast exam annually.
Piedmont Physicians Group
35 Collier Road
Atlanta, GA 30309