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•  or are overweight, especially after menopause.

Women with average risk between the ages of 40 and 44 years should review the risks and benefits of screening mammograms and get one if they wish at this time. Women between the ages of 45 and 54 years should get mammograms every year. Women age 55 years and above should switch to mammograms every two years, or they can choose to continue yearly screening.

Knowing what to expect can make the visit go smoother. “The mammogram can be a little uncomfortable,” McLaughlin said. “They take two pictures of each breast and when they do that, they put your breast in a receptor and do some compressions to each side to even the breast out. ” This helps the medical professionals see through different layers and densities of the breast. The exam is not lengthy at all.

“About 10 percent of the women that get a mammogram will be called back for some additional evaluations if something looks questionable,” said McLaughlin. A slim number may need to get a biopsy or an aspiration. “Sometimes we think

 “After lung cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer there is for women, and it is on the increase,” said Dr. Art McLaughlin, oncology radiologist at Baptist Health Women’s Diagnostic Center in Louisville.

Taking charge of your health is your best defense against this known killer. “The American College of Radiology, the Society of Breast Imaging and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists all recommend annual screenings,” said McLaughlin. The simple commitment to see your doctor regularly can be lifesaving.

It’s good to get in the habit of having an annual clinical breast exam, where your doctor will feel your breasts for lumps or other changes. The monthly self-exam can also be useful. The American Cancer Society (ACS) says women with a personal or family history of breast cancer, a genetic mutation known to increase their risk such as BRCA, are at higher risk. Other women at higher risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are women who:

•  had their first menstrual period before age 12;

•  never gave birth or were older when their first child was born;

•  started menopause after age 55;

•  have taken hormones to replace missing estrogen and progesterone in menopause for more than five years;



Jamie Lober is a Staff Writer for Health & Wellness Magazine

more articles by Jamie Lober

things are probably benign and we do a follow-up in six months, but the vast majority of women do not get called back at all,” said McLaughlin.

The ACS says the most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass. Other possible symptoms include swelling of all or part of a breast even if no distinct lump is felt; skin irritation or dimpling; breast or nipple pain; nipple retraction; redness, scaliness or thickening of the nipple or breast skin; and a nipple discharge other than breast milk.

Some changes may be normal. “There may be a change in shape, density, a lump, thickening or it could be a benign cyst or fluid-filled mass that is not cancerous,” said McLaughlin.

The ACS stresses that although any of these symptoms can be caused by things other than breast cancer, if you have them, it is best to be seen by a healthcare provider to figure out the cause.

“The whole reason for screening is to find breast cancer earlier when it is smaller,” said McLaughlin. “Smaller cancer is a lot easier to take care of and the survival rates are better.

”With early detection, prognosis is quite good. “Generally speaking, when we find breast cancers that are 10 millimeters or less, there is about a 98% survival rate,” said McLaughlin.

It helps to know your body. “Women should check their breasts every month after their menstrual cycle so they will get pretty good at knowing them better than anybody,” McLaughlin said. “If changes persist, they can have their doctor check it out, get a mammogram or whatever is necessary.”

It is always better to be safe than sorry. “Most breast cancer is out of anyone’s control, but if you stay in generally good health, keep your weight down, have alcohol in moderation, exercise, don’t smoke and see your gynecologist or family internist yearly, which includes a breast exam, the things that are for good general health are also good for breast health,” said McLaughlin.