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Healthline Connects
Healthline Connects

Not Your Mothers' Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is one of the oldest documented afflictions known to womankind; from those living in ancient times, to women living in the modern world, and every culture in between. We went from no treatment at all for the disease in Egyptian times, to removing the entire breast and part of the muscle wall (mastectomy), to breast conserving treatments (lumpectomy) offered today. Improvements in diagnostic tools (mammography, digital mammography), although not perfect, are finding breast cancers earlier and earlier when treatment is likely to produce a cure. Breast cancer surgery is becoming more precise and less disfiguring. And chemotherapy and other novel medications such as aromatase inhibitors that nab estrogen that can fuel certain breast cancers in postmenopausal women, are reducing the risk of breast cancer recurrence. A better understanding of the genetics of breast cancer too has led to tests for genes that may signal a higher risk for the disease.

But while this is not your mothers' breast cancer, and we have made much progress, there are still women who do not take advantage of early detection at all and others who do not get screening mammograms and clinical breast exams at regular intervals.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM). Since the program began in 1985, mammography rates have more than doubled for women age 50 and older and breast cancer deaths have declined. We may not have control over who gets the disease, but we do have control over who gets screened.

Nudge a friend today.

Current recommendations for the screening of breast cancer are as followings:

Women at Average Risk: Women in their 20s and 30s should receive a clinical breast examination (CBE) performed by a qualified medical professional as part of a periodic health examination at least every three years. Women may also choose to perform breast self-examination (BSE), which may help find larger breast tumors. Report any new breast symptoms to a health professional. In addition to CBE and BSE, women 40 and over should receive an annual mammogram at a certified mammography facility.

Women at Increased Risk: Women at increased risk of breast cancer (family history of breast cancer, or a previous diagnosis of breast cancer) might benefit from additional screening, such as earlier initiation of screening, shorter screening intervals, or the addition of ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Para informacion en espanol: Y-ME al 1-800-986-9505.

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The Healthline Editorial team writes about the latest health news, policy, and research.