You’re diligent about the more mundane appointments in your life, from your oil changes to your children’s piano lessons. You should be equally as mindful about your regular breast exams, especially if you consider that 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop breast cancer.
We know that scare tactics aren’t a great way to start a conversation, but our team here at New England Women’s Healthcare believes strongly in safeguarding the health of our patients in and around Woburn, Massachusetts. And one of the easiest ways to do that is through regular screening for dangerous diseases, such as breast cancer. With cancer of any kind, the earlier we can detect the problem, the more successfully we can treat it.
With that in mind, here’s a look at how often you should undergo a breast exam, and what type of exam would be best for your situation.
Women with low risk
While some cancers seem to strike out of nowhere, others are influenced by certain risk factors, such as genetics, history, and gene mutations. Breast cancer, unfortunately, falls somewhere in between, which means that even if you don’t fall into a high-risk category, regular breast exams are still an incredibly wise move.
As a frontline measure, we routinely perform clinical breast examinations as part of your yearly wellness visit. This is done through palpation of your breasts to check for any abnormalities in your tissue — a process that is completely painless. This clinical examination is just another reason why you should keep up with your annual women’s wellness exams.
The next level of breast exam is a mammogram, which is a low-level X-ray of your breast tissue. We urge women over the age of 40 to make mammograms part of their regular screening process. Depending on your medical history, we suggest establishing a baseline mammogram when you reach your 40s, and then we can come up with a schedule going forward.
Women with higher risk
As we mentioned earlier, there are a few factors that may place you at a higher risk of developing breast cancer, including:
- The presence of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation
- A personal history of breast cancer
- A close relative with breast cancer (like a mother or sister)
- Previous radiation therapy to your chest
If you fall into any of these categories, the odds are that we’re going to want to stay on top of your breast cancer screening more vigilantly. Depending on your unique situation, we may suggest earlier, and more aggressive screenings, starting at the age of 30. By aggressive we don’t mean painful, but rather more aggressive technology, like an MRI. With an MRI, we get a clearer picture of your breast tissue, allowing us to spot even the smallest aberration.
This doesn’t mean that you stop your mammograms, however, as these are still an extremely effective detection tool.
The bottom line is that every woman is different, with different considerations, which is why we sit down with each of our patients to come up with a tailored breast exam schedule.
If you’d like to stay one step ahead of breast cancer, give us a call or use the online scheduling tool to set up your breast exam today.