October is widely known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This chronic disease affects both males and females. Breast cancer is an abnormal growth of cells that develops in breast tissue. The cells change and form a tumor. As with other cancer, there are four stages of breast cancer. Zero means that the cancer stays in one area and does not spread. Stage IV means that the cancer has spread to other areas in a body.
Cancer is the seventh top health concern in Alabama and the leading cause of death following heart disease (American Cancer Society, 2019). Therefore, it is important to get yearly mammograms to screen for the presence of breast cancer. Early detection can help to stop the disease from spreading and patients are more likely to receive a favorable diagnosis.
Why Do I Need a Mammogram?
A mammogram is a health screening for breast cancer. Special X-ray images detect whether there is abnormal growth or a change in breast tissue. Men do not generally undergo a breast screening or mammogram unless a lump (tumor) has been found. However, men should notify their physician if they detect a lump in their breast. Women, on the other hand, are advised to get breast exams depending on their age and whether there is a history of breast cancer in their family.
Older women are more at risk of getting breast cancer than younger women. The American Cancer Society recommends that women between the ages of 40-44 should have a choice in whether they get a yearly screening based on personal needs and risks. Women between the ages of 45-54 are advised to get an annual mammogram, while those 55 and older should get one every 1-2 years.
The Breast Exam
Females dread taking a mammogram because of the pressing and awkward twisting and turning of the breast. This may be stressful especially when waiting on the results. But what is not generally discussed is dense breast tissue that can make it harder to obtain results. In such cases, a provider may suggest other highly technical testing options such as a breast ultrasound, an MRI or a 3-dimensional image of your breasts.
Breast density is nothing that can be determined by a self-breast examination. It has to be confirmed through mammograms. That’s why it’s important that you talk with your health care provider about all your health concerns.
Visit the American Cancer Society’s website to learn more about breast cancer among men and women.