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Learn About Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most common invasive cancer in African American women. You can get screened for breast cancer at a clinic, hospital, or doctor’s office.

What is cancer?

Cancer is a result of a malfunction in the body's natural systems that control the creation, growth, and death of cells. It happens when the rate of cell death is not normal, leading to an excess of cell growth and the formation of tumors.

What is breast cancer?

Cancer in the breast is caused by abnormal growth of cells in the breast tissue. This growth can form a tumor, which can be benign or malignant. Tumors can grow at different rates, some slowly over a period of years, while others can be more aggressive and grow rapidly. The majority of breast cancers, around 80%, start in the milk ducts, while 10% start in the lobules and a small percentage originate in other breast tissue.

Breast Cancer Screening & Early Detection

Early detection of breast cancer through screening tests is crucial for improving chances of survival.

Understanding the importance of these tests and knowing what to expect, whether it's your first screening mammogram or a follow-up test after an abnormal finding, can help you take control of your health.

The two most commonly used screening tests for breast cancer are mammograms and clinical breast exams, which are performed to detect the presence of cancer in individuals without any symptoms.

What is a screening mammogram?

A screening mammogram is a diagnostic tool that uses X-ray technology to produce images of the breast tissue. It is the most effective method currently available for detecting breast cancer in most women, as it can discover the disease at an early stage, sometimes up to a decade before it can be noticed by you or your doctor.

It is recommended to consult with a physician to determine the appropriate screening tests for you.

  • For those at average risk, it is recommended to have a mammogram annually starting at the age of 40.

  • have a clinical breast exam every three years starting at age 20 and annually starting at age 40.

  • Different screening guidelines may apply for individuals at high risk or transgender people.

What should you expect on the day of your screening mammogram?

A screening mammogram is a quick test(about 15 min) that uses X-rays to produce images of the breast. It is the most effective method for detecting breast cancer in most women, and can identify the disease long before it can be detected by the individual or a healthcare professional.

During the test, it is recommended to wear clothing that is easy to remove and to avoid using any scented or powder-based products on or around the breast area as they can interfere with the mammogram's clarity.

Are screening mammograms painful?

You may feel some pressure during the test, but it should not be painful. If you have any concerns or discomfort, it's important to communicate that with the technologist performing the test.

When should you expect the results of your screening mammogram?

The results are available within two weeks. It's important to follow up on the results of your screening mammogram, and if you haven't received them within two weeks, you should contact your doctor to inquire about them.

What are the possible findings on a mammogram?

The results of a screening mammogram may indicate that

  • no breast cancer is present.

  • that a non-cancerous condition is present.

  • Some women have dense breast tissue, which can also be seen on the mammogram.

  • In some cases, the results may show an abnormal finding that requires further tests to determine if cancer is present.

Know whether you have breast cancer or not?

1. A breast lump or mass that is hard or irregular in shape

2. Changes in the size or shape of the breast

3. Dimpling or puckering of the skin on the breast

4. Nipple discharge or inversion

5. Swelling or redness in the breast or armpit

6. Persistent breast pain

7. Thickening or scaling of the skin on the breast

8. Enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit

9. Weight loss or appetite changes

10. Fatigue or weakness

11. Difficulty breathing or chest pain (in advanced stages)

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