Over the past nine months, many people have delayed regular cancer screenings as a result of stay at home orders and general anxiety about COVID-19. With coronavirus cases being relatively under control in NY and CT, now is a good time to take control of your health and schedule your in-office health screenings like mammogram, your annual physical, colonoscopy, gynecological exams, and any other screenings your PCP has recommended. While you’re waiting for your mammography appointment, be sure you continue to self-check your breasts on a monthly basis, and inform your provider of any noticeable changes.
Mammography is the only technique that can reliably detect breast cancer at the earliest stage, ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS, or “Stage 0” breast cancer). When diagnosed and treated at this stage, the prognosis for complete recovery is excellent. It’s recommended that you start to get a yearly mammograms starting at age 40. If you have a family history of breast cancer, it’s a good idea to consult with your PCP and discuss a possible earlier screening schedule.
Remember that breast cancer doesn’t always present as a lump. When you are doing a self-check, be sure to look for other symptoms, like swelling around your breast, collarbone or armpit, skin thickening, breast warmth and itching, nipple changes or discharge or breast pain lasting more than three to four weeks.
Breast cancer can occur outside of your breasts too – breast tissue is found up to your collarbone and deep inside your armpit. Be sure when you are doing self-exams that you are checking these areas too. Don’t forget to check out our helpful graphic below, to guide you through the most thorough way to conduct a breast self-exam.
If you want to know more facts about breast health, be sure to read Westmed’s Comprehensive Breast Care Center’s Breast Health Booklet, which includes pertinent information about the importance of screening for cancer and where you can access medical services to help you.