This is your friendly White River Resident. I am here today to talk to you about Breast Cancer Screening.
That is a complex sounding couple of words so let me break it down. Cancer occurs when the blueprint of the cells (the smallest living unit in you) in your body are altered. As a result, they divide rapidly, develop irregularly and can spread to other places in the body.
This abnormal growth and spread can manifest into a variety of symptoms. Specifically, in breast cancer, this can manifest as lumps in breast tissue, asymmetry, redness, pain, swelling, bone fractures, fatigue, weight loss, and bloody discharge from the nipple.
Screening allows physicians to detect cancers early on. Treating these cancers at earlier stages increase the chance to cure and eradicate the cancer.
Currently, we estimate that breast cancer will occur in about 1 in every 8 women in the USA. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women. At this time, screening for breast cancer involves performing a mammogram (an X-ray of your breast) every two years in women between 50 and 74 years (this can be sooner depending on how many immediate family members with breast cancer a patient has and other risk factors) of age. Overall, in the USA screening has resulted in a decrease in mortality (number of deaths due to breast cancer) in breast cancer patients owing to early diagnosis.
Current treatment modalities, depending on how advanced the cancer is, are surgery, radiation therapy, hormone therapy (many breast cancers rely on hormones such as estrogen to replicate), chemotherapy (drugs that interfere with machinery that cells use to divide or survive), and targeted therapies (some cancer cells use unique machinery that can be specifically targeted and blocked) . Recent advances in therapy have given us a better chance of curing our patients.
I know this is a lot to take in. If you don’t remember anything, please remember this. Detecting breast cancer early saves lives and gives us the best chance for cure.
If you have any questions concerning this process, please visit your primary care provider. If you do not have a primary care provider, please feel free to stop by The Diagnostic Clinic at WRMC and set up an appointment, and we will be glad to help!
Dr. Sai Desikan is a 3rd-year Internal Medicine Resident at the White River Medical Center. He is from Batesville, Arkansas and went to Ross Medical School. His hobbies include tennis, basketball and listening to Heavy Metal.