Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October featured many community activities highlighting good health practices for the early detection of breast cancer. Incorporating these strategies into a monthly routine and getting regular mammograms as well as understanding changes in breast tissue can help ensure breast cancer is found at its earliest stage. While men can also develop breast cancer, it is primarily a disease of women; however, if there is a strong family history of breast cancer, it is important for everyone to take a proactive approach.
There are risk factors that can be changed and some that cannot. The two biggest factors for risk of developing breast cancer are gender and age. As women, as we age, the risk of cancer rises. Inheriting a gene mutation also confers an increased risk of breast and/or ovarian cancer. Lifestyle modification can make a difference. Avoid obesity and excessive use of alcohol and be sure to rely on credible sources to find information.
Several key communities within eastern Ventura County have some of the highest incidence rates of breast cancer within the State of California. This is in large part due to demographics, such as race, diet, smaller families and later age at first pregnancy. This important information may be of value to our health care providers in encouraging consistent screening and healthy lifestyles.
Rx for Breast Cancer
Mammography screening guidelines have changed in the past year, so be sure to speak to a health care provider to select the best screening interval. New guidelines now suggest annual mammography at age 45 for average risk women and continues every one to two years depending on personal family history. New technology, such as 3-D Tomosynthesis, is especially useful for those with dense breast tissue. California is one of 22 states that require patients be informed of the density of their breast tissue. This technology can help to evaluate an abnormality among the density of breast tissue. Los Robles Hospital and Thousand Oaks Radiology Group were among the first in Ventura County to provide this new equipment. Many other imaging centers have followed, making a difference in finding cancers earlier.
Another important strategy is breast self-examination. This simple technique can be used to become familiar with the texture of breast tissue. Becoming familiar with the breasts’ normal texture will make it more likely to identify any changes that may need to be evaluated. Techniques have changed over the decades, but the best and most efficient way is to complete the exam lying down and using a vertical strip method to cover all the breast tissue.
Most patients concentrate on examining only the mound of the breast, but clearly this does not cover the entire area of breast tissue. Most breast cancers occur in the upper outer quadrant of the breast, making the vertical strip method the most accurate way to detect changes. In men, often the abnormality is found directly under the nipple and again, vertical strip will cover this important anatomy.
Finding time to examine oneself and being consistent with mammogram screening will help to reduce advanced cancers. See your health care provider annually for clinical breast examinations. Early detection is crucial to finding cancers early and helping us lead healthy and productive lives.
To learn more about 3D mammography, or to make an appointment, please call the Los Robles Imaging Center at 805.523.8062 or Thousand Oaks Radiology at 805.496.7755.