October 18th is National Mammography Day
As many of you probably know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In addition to this month of awareness, I wanted to bring light to another important aspect of breast cancer awareness: National Mammography Day. National Mammography Day is on October 18th, and I couldn’t think of a better time to give you more information on breast cancer screening tests like mammograms.
What is Breast Cancer?
Cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells in the body grow out of control. Breast cancer begins in one of three different parts of the breast: the lobules, ducts, and connective tissue. The lobules produce milk, the ducts carry milk to the nipple, and the connective tissue surrounds and holds everything together. While most cancer starts in the ducts, it can spread outside the breast through blood vessels and lymph vessels. This is called metastasized breast cancer.
Types of Breast Cancer
The two most common types of breast cancer are invasive ductal carcinoma and invasive lobular carcinoma.
Invasive ductal carcinoma happens when cancer cells grow outside of the ducts and move into other parts of the breast tissue. These the kind of cancer cells can spread, or metastasize, outside of the breast to other parts of the body.
Invasive lobular carcinoma is when cancer cells spread from the lobules to breast tissue that is close by. These cancer cells can also spread to other parts of the body.
Additionally, there are several less common forms of breast cancer. These include medullary, mucinous, and inflammatory breast cancer and Paget’s disease. Ductal carcinoma is a breast disease that may also lead to breast cancer.
What Are the Signs of Breast Cancer?
The symptoms of breast cancer are different for different people. In fact, some people may not even experience symptoms. However, there are some common warning signs, including:
- A new lump in your breast or underarm (armpit)
- Swelling or thickening on part of your breast
- Irritated breast skin or dimpling of your breast skin
- Redness or flaky skin around your nipple or your breast
- Pain in the nipple area or pulling in of the nipple
- Discharge from your nipple that isn’t breast milk, like blood
- Any changes in the size or the shape of your breast
- Pain in any area of your breast
There’s no such thing as a “typical breast,” and what is normal for one person might not be normal for another. It’s important to keep in mind that these symptoms may appear with other conditions that are not related to cancer. However, if you’ve noticed something new or unusual for your breasts, it’s important to contact us right away so that we can schedule an appointment.
What is a Mammogram?
A mammogram is an x-ray picture of a breast that is used to screen for breast cancer. Doctors use mammograms to look for early signs of breast cancer. Regular mammograms are the best tools for catching breast cancer early. In fact, they can find signs of breast cancer up to three years before a lump is actually felt.
How Are Mammograms Done?
Mammograms are performed using a special x-ray machine. First, a technologist will place your breast on a plastic plate. Then, another plate will press on your breast from above, flattening it so that it stays still during the x-ray. The process is then repeated for a side view, and then done on your other breast. The technologist will then check the x-rays to decide if they need to be redone, but they will not be able to read the results of your mammogram. You will receive the results of your mammogram within a few weeks, depending on the facility. If there is a concern, you may receive your results sooner.
This video from an imaging center in Texas provides a great overview of the mammography process and how easy it can be:
Is It Painful?
Unfortunately, mammograms are uncomfortable for some women and some may even feel pain. The level of discomfort depends on a variety of factors, including the skill of your technologist, the size of your breasts, and how much they need to be pressed. Your breasts are likely to be more sensitive or tender the week before or during your period, so it can be helpful not to schedule a mammogram during these times. Thankfully, a mammogram only takes a few moments, and the discomfort doesn’t last long.
What Happens If My Mammogram Is Abnormal?
Abnormal mammograms do not always mean that there is cancer present. However, if your mammogram is abnormal, you will need to have additional tests, exams, or mammograms before a doctor can give you a diagnosis. We may also refer you to a Fort Collins breast specialist or surgeon in order to diagnose breast cancer or confirm that there is no cancer.
Breast Exams at A Woman’s Healing Center
Annual well-woman care at A Woman’s Healing Center includes a physical exam that evaluates the thyroid, heart, lungs, breasts, abdomen, back, general neurological, skin, and lymph systems, and pelvic area (vulva, vagina, cervix, uterus, and ovaries). Additionally, we will have in-depth discussions with you about any health concerns or medical needs unique to you. If you have specific questions or concerns about your breast health, I, or Dr. Grove or our midwives, are happy to address them with you during your annual exam or an office visit specifically scheduled to discuss your concerns.
This National Mammography Day, please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our doctors about your questions or concerns about breast cancer. You can click here to contact us, or fill out the form below to request an appointment.