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What constitutes good breast health?
For women age 20 & over, have an annual clinical breast exam. For women age 35-40 have a baseline mammogram and annual clinical breast exam. For women age 40 and over have an annual clinical breast exam and a mammogram every 1-2 years as recommended by your health care professional.  Know your body and don't be afraid to examine it so that you can be aware of changes that take place.

What is a clinical breast exam?
A clinical breast exam is a breast exam done by a health care provider.

What is the difference between screening and diagnostic mammograms?
Typically, screening mammograms consist of two x-rays of each breast.  Diagnostic mammograms can have up to 8 x-rays of each breast.

Why are women under the age of 30 not given regular mammogram screenings?
Women under the age of 30 have dense breast tissue.  As a result of the dense tissue, x-ray pictures cannot differentiate between healthy tissue and lumps or cysts.

Are there conditions that call for an immediate clinical breast exam?
Yes. No matter what age, if you experience any of the following conditions you should call your health care provider and schedule a clinical breast exam and evaluation for:

  1. Unusual persistent breast changes
  2. Lump
  3. Pain/tenderness outside of usual menstrual cycle
  4. Thickening
  5. Nipple discharge
  6. Change in size or shape (swelling or distortion)
  7. Skin irritation (scaly rash) or dimpling
  8. Nipple pain or retraction

At what age should a woman have regular screenings?
Women age 40 and over should have a mammogram every 1-2 years as recommended by their health care professional.

What is a baseline mammogram?
A baseline mammogram is the first mammogram taken sometime in the mid-thirties. This provides a mammogram from which radiologists can track any changes in the breast tissue as you age.

I found a lump, what do I do next?
First of all don’t panic.  Most lumps are benign, but all must be evaluated.  Call you health care professional and discuss next steps.  Typically, the first step is to get a clinical breast exam followed by a diagnostic test. A diagnostic test for women age 35 and older is usually in the form of a mammogram, under the age of 35 an ultra sound is more common. If you have had a mammogram, you will need to pick up the last set so that the radiologist and your doctor can compare the two sets. 

Who can prescribe a mammogram or diagnostic test?
A primary care physician as well as a gynecologist can prescribe a mammogram.

What are the risk factors for breast cancer?
Risk factors are:

  1. Increasing age
  2. Personal or family history of breast cancer
  3. Never having children or having first child after age 30
  4. Early onset of menstruation or late menopause
  5. Recent use of postmenopausal estrogen (hormone replacement)
  6. Daily alcohol use
  7. Use of drug diethylstilbestrol (DES)

I have one or two risk factors, does that mean I will get breast cancer?
While risk factors play a role in getting breast cancer, there is no identifiable cause or known cure for breast cancer. Early detection may increase survival and treatment.

My family has no history of breast cancer. What is the statistical chance of my getting breast cancer?
Having a history of no breast cancer is a good thing, however, 1 – 7 women will develop breast cancer and 80% of them have no family history.

Linda Creed
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