Early detection is key to survival of breast cancer

The statistics are staggering. One out of nine American women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. A new breast cancer case is diagnosed every three minutes and one woman dies from this disease every 13 minutes. While Anglo American women have the greatest risk of developing breast cancer, African Americans are twice as likely to die from the disease. The physicians of Texas want all women to know they are at risk of breast cancer regardless of ethnic background. For all women, prevention and early detection are important. For those ethnic groups that are at particularly high risk, careful monitoring is much more essential. Breast cancer cannot yet be prevented but there are risk factors to be aware of. Having one or several risk factors, does not necessarily mean that a person will get the disease but that their chances of having the disease are greater. Risk factors may include: ‘ Gender: Simply being a woman is the main factor for developing breast cancer. Breast cancer can also affect men, but to a lesser degree. ‘ Aging: A woman’s risk of developing breast cancer increases with age. About 77 percent of women with breast cancer are over age 50 at the time of diagnosis. ‘ Family history of breast cancer: Breast cancer is highest among women whose close blood relatives have the disease. ‘ Personal history of breast cancer: A woman with cancer in one breast is three to four times more likely to develop cancer in the other breast. ‘ Race: Breast cancer is slightly more common among Anglo American women. ‘ Menstrual periods: Women who started menstruating before age 12 or who went through menopause after age 50 have a higher risk. ‘ Alcohol: Women who have two to five drinks daily, have about 1.5 times the risk of women who drink no alcohol. Although most of the associated risk factors cannot be controlled, early detection, and early treatment, may be promoted through routine breast self-exam beginning around age 20 and screening mammography after age 40. For early breast cancer detection, the American Cancer Society recommends the following: ‘ Women age 40 and older should have a screening mammogram every year. ‘ Between the ages of 20 and 39, women should have a clinical breast examination by a health professional every 3 years. After age 40, women should have a breast exam by a health professional every year. ‘ Women age 20 or older should perform a breast self exam (BSE) every month. By performing the exam regularly, women get to know how their breasts normally feel and can readily detect any signs or symptoms. ‘ If a change occurs, such as development of a lump or swelling, skin irritation, or dimpling, nipple pain or turning inward, redness or scaliness of the nipple or breast skin, or discharge other than breast milk, women should see their physician as soon as possible for evaluation. During a breast cancer screening, the two primary methods used are mammography and a clinical breast exam. Mammography is used to diagnose breast disease in women who have symptoms, and also those who appear to have no breast problems. A clinical breast exam is an examination by a physician or nurse. If detected early, breast cancer can be treated effectively with surgery followed by radiation therapy. With early detection, the five year survival rate after treatment is 96 percent. Texas Medical Association is a professional organization of more than 36,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 118 component county medical societies around the state. The Association represents 85 percent of the doctors of medicine licensed and residing in Texas. TMA’s key objective is to improve the health of all Texans.

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