Tips for Understanding Breast Cancer Screenings

There are several factors that can provide an answer to the question of whether or not a woman has breast cancer. Some people have a very low chance of developing the disease because they have no family history, while other women are at an increased risk because they carry cancer-specific genes or a family history.

Multiple screenings are done on women before a doctor provides a breast cancer diagnosis. It sometimes takes multiple tests before breast cancer can be confirmed.

"There is no exact formula for every woman," Dr. Terese Kaske, director of the Gloria Gossard Breast Health Center at Yampa Valley Medical Center, told Steamboat Today.

Most breast cancer screenings include a mammogram or X-ray of the breast, and doctors encourage women to start having these done annually when they reach the age of 40. However, women who have a family history of breast cancer and other factors may be told to begin screenings at a younger age. 

If the results of a mammogram are abnormal, the lump may be benign, premalignant or cancerous. According to the National Cancer Institute, women who have abnormal results should have a follow-up test done.

Women should do monthly self examinations to check for breast changes. These alterations may include lumps in the breast or underarm, a change in the size of the breast, inverted nipples, nipple discharge or welling on the skin, areola or nipple. Self exams can help with early detection and improve the chances that treatment will eradicate the disease.

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