Early detection is the key to the battle against breast cancer | News, Sports, Jobs


Dr Mohammad Tahir

Changes in the breast, such as lumps or masses, usually trigger cancer problems. But did you know that most early breast cancers cause no symptoms? Breast cancer can present in a number of ways, including a lump in the breast, changes in the nipple or skin, and bloody discharge from the nipple. Being aware of your breasts makes you an active participant in your breast health and guides your provider as they examine and assess you.

The breast is a complex structure composed mainly of fat, glandular and connective tissue. Being breast aware (a regular five-minute visual and physical inspection) helps you learn the unique composition and characteristics of your breasts, which change cyclically and over time. A young woman generally has denser breasts with more hormonally active tissue than an older woman who has gone through menopause. Starting breast self-examination in your twenties is ideal, but anytime is a good time.

The importance of


In addition to regular self-exams, women are encouraged to work with their clinician to ensure they follow through on recommendations for regular mammograms. Proper screening is important for detecting cancer at an early stage, which is when it is most likely to be cured, and mammography is the most commonly used type of breast screening exam. to detect breast cancer in women. This is a quick, non-invasive X-ray that can detect abnormal or changing breast tissue and potentially detect cancer.

It is recommended that women who have no symptoms and are at average risk of breast cancer start screening with mammography at age 40. For women between the ages of 20 and 40, a clinical breast exam is suggested at least every three years. Every woman is different and as she ages, screening recommendations are based on her current health status and overall breast cancer risk.

What if my mammogram

is abnormal?

Having regular mammograms is essential because they can help your provider detect changes in breast tissue, not just cancer. Many women feel anxious while waiting for mammogram results. It can be particularly nerve-wracking if your provider calls you back for further testing. If you are called back, try not to panic.

If your radiologist detects changes in your breast tissue, you will likely have further tests which could include:

— Additional mammographic views. Being called back after a screening mammogram is common – it doesn’t always mean you have cancer. Sometimes the picture isn’t clear or you have a new discovery that needs to be evaluated further. If you have a mammogram finding and you don’t have previous mammograms that the doctor can compare to, you will likely be called back for additional tests.

– Breast ultrasound. If your radiologist finds a new spot on your mammogram or if you have dense breast tissue, they may order an ultrasound of your breast. An ultrasound uses sound waves to examine breast tissue and can be very helpful in dense breasts.

— Breast MRI. An MRI of your breast is usually used if you are at high risk for breast cancer – a strong family history of breast cancer or a genetic mutation such as BRCA1 or BRCA2.

– Breast biopsy. This procedure is recommended for tissue diagnosis. Having a biopsy does not mean you will have cancer, but it is the best way to find out if you have cancer. A biopsy removes a small piece of tissue that a pathologist can examine for cancer cells. The biopsy can usually be done in an imaging room using a small needle to remove a sample of tissue. A small clip or marker will then be placed in the area so that it can be found easily during future mammograms and if surgery is needed.

Regardless of the results of your mammogram, it is important to understand that although mammography is the most effective way of breast screening, it does not detect all breast cancers. It is also essential to monitor your breast health through regular self-examination and physical examination.

Genetic test

for breast cancer

Depending on your risk, your provider may also recommend genetic testing as a breast health planning tool. It is rare to be a carrier of a genetic mutation and a positive test for a pathogenic mutation does not mean that you will develop breast or ovarian cancer. A different genetic mutation poses a different level of risk.

The pathogenic mutation of BRCA 1 and 2 and certain other genes is associated with a significantly elevated risk of breast cancer. In these cases, doctors recommend regular mammograms and breast MRIs for breast screening. Not having a mutation does not guarantee that you will not develop breast or ovarian cancer. In fact, these mutations are only responsible for 10% of all breast cancer cases.

You are the best defender of your breast health. Learning how your breasts change, understanding your breast cancer risk, adopting a healthy lifestyle and having yearly mammograms gives you the best opportunity to detect and treat any breast disease at its earliest stage.

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Mohammad Tahir, MD, is a surgeon with UPMC Breast Health Services and sees patients at UPMC Breast Health Center, UPMC Williamsport Divine Providence Campus, 1100 Grampian Blvd., Williamsport. For more information about breast health services offered at UPMC in North Central Pennsylvania, visit UPMC.com/BreastNCPA.

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