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Importance of breast cancer screening and treatment

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Women of all ages and of all ethnic backgrounds are at risk of getting breast cancer. But as Dr. Kevin Campbell explains Wednesday on WNCN Today, the key to successful outcomes is early detection and treatment.

There are different kinds of breast cancer. The kind of breast cancer depends on which cells in the breast turn into cancer. Breast cancer can begin in different parts of the breast, like the ducts or the lobes.

Common forms of breast cancer:

  • Ductal carcinoma: The most common kind of breast cancer. It begins in the cells that line the milk ducts in the breast, also called the lining of the breast ducts.
  • Lobular carcinoma: In this kind of breast cancer, the cancer cells begin in the lobes, or lobules, of the breast. Lobules are the glands that make milk.

Breast cancer is considered to be the most common form of cancer in women and one of the most common causes of death in Hispanic women.

In 2009, 211,731 women were diagnosed with breast cancer. More than 40,000 women died that year as a result of breast cancer.

Reproductive Risk Factors:

  • Being younger when you first had your menstrual period.
  • Starting menopause at a later age.
  • Being older at the birth of your first child.
  • Never giving birth.
  • Not breastfeeding.
  • Long-term use of hormone-replacement therapy.

Other Risk Factors:

  • Getting older.
  • Personal history of breast cancer or some non-cancerous breast diseases.
  • Family history of breast cancer (mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, or son).
  • Treatment with radiation therapy to the breast/chest.
  • Being overweight (increases risk for breast cancer after menopause).
  • Drinking alcohol (more than one drink a day).
  • Not getting regular exercise

The key to a successful outcome when diagnosed with any form of cancer is early detection and treatment. Breast cancer screening means checking a woman's breast for cancer before there are signs or symptoms of the disease. There are three main tests that are used to screen breasts for cancer, but be sure to talk with your doctor about which test is right for you.

The three tests:

  • Mammogram: A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. Mammograms are the best method to detect breast cancer early when it is easier to treat and before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms. Having regular mammograms can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer. If you are age 50 to 74 years, be sure to have a screening mammogram every two years. If you are age 40–49 years, talk to your doctor about when and how often you should have a screening mammogram.
  • Clinical breast exam: A clinical breast exam is an examination by a doctor or nurse, who uses his or her hands to feel for lumps or other changes.1
  • Breast self-exam: A breast self-exam is when you check your own breasts for lumps, changes in size or shape of the breast, or any other changes in the breasts or underarm (armpit).

The CDC recommends that you work to increase screening in your community. Giving information through newsletters, brochures and pamphlets is an effective way to increase use of screening services. Research has shown other activities by community groups are effective as well, including the Barbells for Boobs event Saturday, July 20 at CrosFit RDU at 6808 Davis Circle. The event begins at 9 a.m. and it costs $40 per team.

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