Catching breast cancer early saves lives because tumors are found when they are still small and treatable.
Dr. Pallavi Khanna from Regional One Health’s East Campus said the best ways to catch cancer early are to have your recommended screening mammograms, be aware of changes to your breasts and talk openly with your doctor about your risk factors.
Catching breast cancer early, when tumors are still small and treatable, gives patients the best chance of survival.
How do you make sure you’re taking the right steps to do so?
“The guidelines have helped lead to a 40 percent reduction in deaths from breast cancer. In 1975 the five-year survival rate was 75 percent. Today, it’s up to 90 percent.”
Here’s what Dr. Khanna tells her patients:
Be vigilant about your screening mammograms
Mammograms are the best way to catch breast cancer early.
Most women should start screening mammograms at age 40 and have one annually until they turn 75. Then, average-risk patients can talk to their doctor about whether to continue screening.
Mammograms are quick and non-invasive. Some women experience discomfort, but it is usually minor and short-lived.
Dr. Khanna said the East Campus has its own Imaging Center. It offers convenient scheduling and the newest technology to makes the test more comfortable and accurate. The Imaging Center uses 3D tomography that looks at the breast from multiple angles.
“I’m proud of our facility here,” she said. “Women can have same-day, walk-in mammograms, which makes it so much easier to keep up with your screening.”
Be aware of changes to your breasts
Patients should have a clinical breast exam every three years starting at age 25 and every year starting at age 40. However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists no longer recommends self-exams for average-risk patients. The chance of false positives is too high.
Instead, Dr. Khanna said your doctor should counsel you on awareness:
Know what your breasts look like and feel like.
Watch for changes like a mass, redness, nipple discharge, pain or inverted nipples.
“A woman should be attuned to any changes with her breast, and if there’s a change, you should notify your doctor and be examined and evaluated,” Dr. Khanna said.
Know and manage your risk factors
Your doctor has tools to estimate your risk of breast cancer. They consider numerous factors:
- Your age and race
- Your age at your first period, first childbirth and start of menopause
- Family history, specifically your mother, sister(s) and daughter(s)
- How many past breast biopsies and atypical breast biopsies you’ve had
- Alcohol and tobacco use
- Known gene mutations
The risk assessment tool shows a patient’s five-year risk of developing breast cancer.
Dr. Khanna refers high-risk patients to a specialist to explore prevention options like medication, chemotherapy and elective mastectomy. For average-risk women, she offers counseling on addressing risk factors.
Build a relationship with your gynecologist
Your gynecologist should be your ally in preventing breast cancer.
Find a doctor who talks with you openly about breast health. Be vigilant about your annual checkups and screening. Develop a lasting relationship so your doctor can help recognize any changes that might be cause for concern.