Four things you need to know about breast cancer


 October’s awareness month highlights risks

“You have breast cancer,”— four words no woman wants to hear. But more than 246,000 are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. It’s the most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of death among women in the U.S., according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

Just in time for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, Erin Prince, MD, radiologist and breast specialist at the Ascension Providence Breast Health Center, discusses four things you need to know about breast cancer.

Ascension Providence is part of Ascension, the largest nonprofit health system in the U.S. and the world’s largest Catholic health system

1. Know your risk

Approximately one of eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime— that gives you a 12 percent lifetime risk for the disease. It is estimated that in 2017, more than 252,000 new cases of breast cancer  will be diagnosed.

Women with a family history of breast cancer have an increased chance of getting breast cancer, but approximately 85 percent of women who are diagnosed have no family history.

“Cancer is most treatable when it is caught early,” Prince said. “Knowing your personal risk can increase screening measures, leading to earlier screenings, earlier detection and less aggressive surgeries.”

So, what factors can increase your risks? While several risk factors can play a role in whether you may receive a breast cancer diagnosis in your lifetime, being female and getting older are the two biggest players. It’s important to talk to your doctor about your family history and your personal health history to determine the best time to start mammogram screenings.

2. When to get screened

 Having risk factors doesn’t automatically equal a breast cancer diagnosis, but some women are at greater risk than others. The American College of Radiology (ACR) and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), recommend yearly screening mammography for all women beginning at age 40 and no later than age 50.

Women with a lifetime risk of breast cancer greater than 20 percent are encouraged to receive yearly screening mammograms beginning at age 40.

In some cases, screening is recommended even earlier. For example, if you have a known increased risk of breast cancer, and your mother was diagnosed at age 44, mammograms could begin as early as age 34.

Women with greater than 20 percent lifetime risk may also qualify for complete breast ultrasounds or breast MRI. Talk to your doctor about what is the best option for you.

3. Early detection can save your life

 No matter your risk, early detection through self-exams and mammogram screenings is key to finding cancer early, when it is most treatable.

Ascension Providence offers Digital 3D Mammography™, the first and only state of the art technology of its kind in Waco. 3D mammography provides enhanced breast tissue visualization resulting in better detection, earlier.

ACOG also recommends a yearly clinical breast exam by your provider. Recommendations vary on the importance of monthly self-breast exam, but flag your health care provider if you feel there is any change in your breasts.

4. Be Proactive

While you can’t control your genetics, or stop the aging process, you can be proactive in your breast health.

  • Eat a healthy diet. Always use portion control. Limit highly processed foods and opt for lean meats, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables.
  • Exercise regularly. Make it fun with a walking buddy or crank up some tunes.
  • Don’t smoke and limit alcohol intake.
  • See your doctor regularly for annual well-checks.

Teaming together in your care

If you do hear, “you have breast cancer,” the Ascension Providence Breast Health Center is here for you. With a multidisciplinary and coordinated approach in play, a team of breast imaging radiologists, surgeons, oncologists and pathologists develop the best care plan, specialized for your needs.  From screening and diagnosis to treatment and beyond, nurse navigators walk alongside each patient, providing support and comfort along the way. Learn more about the Ascension Providence Breast Health Center and support groups available.