QUESTION & ANSWER
BREAST CANCER AWARENESS
Dr. Keisha Callins, MD, MPH, OB/GYN
Hi Everyone, My name is Dr. Keisha Callins, I am an OB/GYN with Community Health Care Systems, Inc. and today we will be talking about Breast Cancer Awareness. There are a couple of things that we probably need to address and it might be good if we just go through a Q&A format.
Why Should We Talk About This
Breast Cancer is a very important topic for women mostly because that’s who we usually focus on, but it’s also an issue for men. I want you to think about that too in terms of our awareness in the comments that we’ll discuss today.
Some research shows every 2 minutes in the United States, at least one women is diagnosed with breast cancer. If you think about it, that’s quite a lot – every 2 minutes. In addition, breast cancer is not something that we only have to address as we get older. It is something that needs to happen for women throughout all the stages of life. I am sure there are people who know people that they would not have expected to be diagnosed in their 30s or even their 20s, and so it’s not something that’s just for the older population. It really is important for everyone.
When Do You Start?
That depends on your history. One of the things that I would like for you to do when you’re done watching this segment today, is to reach out to your family if you’re able to.
Step 1: Find out who in your family may have had breast cancer in the past.
- That’s important to know because that starts to inform our decision about when you need to start doing your own screening.
- For most women, actual mammogram start at age 40. However, if you have a family member that has been diagnosed with breast cancer under 50, then we actually have to go back almost 10 years. So you may have to get screening at age 30 depending on your family history.
Step 2: Talk to your primary care provider to find out the best recommendation for you
- In addition to that, sometimes I get a question about, “when do you stop going into get mammograms.” Again, it depends on your history. Usually around age 75 there is recommendation that it can be discontinued, but again that depends on your [family] history and other risk factors.
- It is a really important conversation to have between you and your provider to find out what is the best recommendation for you.
Step 3: Mammograms start at age 40 need to be every year.
- Be sure to tag as an annual event that you do in honor of yourself and your self-care.
How Do You Manage Your Breast Care?
Breast awareness is another component that’s very important. How do you manage your breast care? There used to be a lot of talk about self-breast exams, and now there are really recommending that we now become more breast aware. With that, women need to become familiar by using their eyes and fingers (our touch), to examine the breast.
Why is it important to become more breast aware?
A lot of patients will say, “I don’t know what I’m looking for…” We want you to get familiar with your own breast tissue so that you will know if something is different. If you’re checking regularly, then if something changes – such as tenderness, something gets stuck or doesn’t move, or something just seems out of place – if you are regularly looking and regularly examining that will allow you to get your interest peaked and then you can mention it to your provider.
When should you examine?
You can do what’s most comfortable for you. For women, preferably if you’re having cycles, after your cycle when you are not as tender. Use two to three digits of your finger and examine the area around the breast. One thing that I want to demonstrate for you in terms of breast tissue, a lot of time when we think about breast we think about the general area. However, your breast tissue actually extends all the way to the top of your armpit. When you’re doing your examination, you want to be thinking about your collar bone area [because you have lymph nodes in that area], all the way deep into the armpit, around the breast, under the breast, up the middle, and then up and down across the breast. It is more of a chest wall exam. I want you to focus not only on the smaller area, but check the whole perimeter.
Now when it comes to breast exams, we have found that women who are involved in relationships sometimes their acuity or finding things happens more often, because intimacy does allow itself for more frequent breast exams. Be able to discuss that with your partner. Having them even help with the exam can also be helpful.
Again, if you notice something that is abnormal bring it to the attention of your provider, and then you can decide together what is the appropriate imagining. If you are under 40, sometimes we will need to do an ultrasound. Sometimes, you’ll need to do a mammogram and an ultrasound. Now we have other modalities such as MRI’s that are also helpful – again, there are lots of options related to that. So, I want to recommend that your really become more breast aware, know what your anatomy is, and keep up with your appropriate screenings.
Where Do You Go To Get An Exam?
Be sure to talk with your provider, [a screening appointment] can usually be done with an order. I get a lot of patients that say, “If I don’t have any finances or I don’t have health insurance, then how will I be able to access that?” There are lots programs available in the community. Talk with your provider or reach out to your local health department. There are programs such as ‘Breast Test for More’, where you can receive an exam at zero or discounted cost and then they will usually be able to provide compensation for you to get the appropriate imaging. I don’t want you to not do something because you think you won’t be able to afford it, but rather ask to see what resources are available in your community.
How Uncomfortable Is a Mammogram?
I will tell you, that I am a scaredy-cat! When I have my mammograms, I usually take a little bit of Tylenol before I go in. Only because I’m super pain sensitive, but I don’t think everyone has that same reaction to it. However, it is an interesting experience, but like many things we have to do to help our health – we tolerate that. Personally, I don’t like needles, but I still get my blood drawn for my annual exams. Even though you may not like the idea of being squished or prodded for a little bit, it’s temporary and short and the information you receive can be very helpful.
- Do not wait until you’re “older” to start examining your breast
- Know your family history as much as possible – ask questions to find out if someone has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
- Ask them what type and what kind of treatments they were exposed to
- In some cases, patients may be eligible to receive genetic screening to see if they have an increased risk for breast cancer and whether or not any additional screening needs to be done
- Make sure you have a conversation with your provider about changes that you may notice and any questions/concerns you may have.
As to everything when it comes to cancer, make sure that you are eating a healthy diet, exercise, rest, and manage your stress. All those things are easier said than done, but they do contribute to your general health. With that, I will end my recommendations on breast cancer awareness.