Breast Cancer Screening: More Than Mammograms
by Ryan Baker, MD, FAAFP
Mammograms are the gold standard for breast cancer screening, and often a woman is starting her regular mammograms at a stage of life when she may not be seeing her gynecologist once a year.
Ideally, your primary-care provider is already seeing you at least annually for a physical already, so that’s a great opportunity to talk about breast health. Up to 15 percent of breast cancer cases are diagnosed when a patient themselves or their physician feels a palpable breast mass not detected on mammography. And 30 percent are diagnosed with a breast mass found during the interval between mammograms.
If you’re not comfortable doing the physical exam portion of a breast health screening, that’s an opportunity for your primary-care provider to refer you to someone you are comfortable with. I’m not offended at all to make a referral. I don’t want patients to not do it or not talk about it because they’re not comfortable. I always put the decision-making power in the patient’s hands to talk about it as little or as much as they want to.
When it comes to breast self exams, the best recommendation is for you to have a conversation with your primary-care provider about how often to do it and what to look for. If you do feel or notice a concerning change in your breast, discuss it with your physician. Most breast lumps are caused by other non-cancerous medical conditions.
While a lump or palpable mass in your breast or armpit is cause for further examination and possibly testing, it’s not the only thing to look for. Other possible signs of breast cancer can include:
- A change in your breast shape or size
- Nipple changes or discharge
- Skin changes, including redness, inflammation, or dimpling like the skin of an orange
Cancer isn’t the only thing that can cause changes in a woman’s breast. Menstrual cycles, having children, losing or gaining weight, menopause, and taking certain medications can affect how your breasts look and feel. Breasts also tend to change as you age. It’s important to note that breast changes are very common and most are not cancer
Early breast cancer detection is the key to a better outcome. I recommend having an honest conversation about it every year with your primary-care physician. The best physician-patient relationship is one based on shared decision making.
About Millennium Physician Group:
Millennium Physician Group is the largest comprehensive, independent physician group in Florida with more than 560 healthcare providers at 150 locations in 19 Florida counties serving nearly half a million patients. Learn more at www.MillenniumPhysician.com.
2299 9th Ave N, Suite 1A
St. Petersburg, FL 33713
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