fight Breast cancer
know when to get tested
by Jamal Ross
Even during the coronavirus pandemic, it remains important to acknowledge breast cancer awareness month. Each day approximately 100 women will die from breast cancer in the United States. Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide for women. In the United States, breast cancer is the most common cancer and the second most common cause of death amongst women. (1) We cannot forget the importance of breast cancer screening in an effort to prevent breast completely or treat this condition at its early stages. To detect breast cancer at it early stages, a mammogram is performed.
If you are between the ages of 40-49, it is important to discuss screening options with your doctor as there are varying consensus statements across societal guidelines regarding the benefits of screening in this age group. A family history of breast cancer or prior treatments for other medical conditions, such as chest radiation for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, may influence your decision to be screened for breast cancer before the age of 50. There are a considerate number cases where a mammogram may show a mass, but a follow up biopsy is negative for cancer. This is called a false positive mammogram result. This kind of false positive result can lead to anxiety and unnecessary procedures. Nonetheless, some women may not consider a biopsy, and the worry that goes along with it, unnecessary nor inconvenient if a negative result ultimately gives them peace of mind. In this age group, a mammogram is truly an individualized decision.
Between the ages of 50-74, most medical societal guidelines recommend breast cancer screening with a mammogram once every 2 years. Self-performed breast examines can miss masses found on mammogram. Notwithstanding, it is important to perform a regular assessment of your breasts to note any asymmetry, skin dimpling or irregularities. Importantly, a mammogram is only recommended every 2 years if there are no concerning abnormalities; otherwise mammograms can be performed yearly or every 6 months and include an ultrasound. After the age of 75, mammograms can be performed at your discretion.
Breast cancer does not take a rest during the coronavirus pandemic and neither should you. Discuss your screening options with your doctor and determine if it is safe for you to obtain a mammogram during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Siegel RL, Miller KD, Jemal A. Cancer statistics, 2019. CA Cancer J Clin. 2019 Jan;69(1):7-34. doi: 10.3322/caac.21551. Epub 2019 Jan 8. PMID: 30620402.