Breast cancer is a disease affecting the breast tissue and lymph nodes. It is the second leading cause of death from cancer among women in the United States. Breast cancer occurs when cancerous cells have formed in the tissues in and near the breast. Every part of the breast can become cancerous and when the cancer cells have reached the lymph nodes, it can spread to the rest of the body.
Breast cancer screenings are performed to look for indications of cancer before symptoms are present. These screenings can aid the physician in identifying cancers before they become more serious. When irregular tissues or cancer are found the earliest stage, it is much easier to treat. These screenings are an important part of maintaining your overall health.
Breast cancer screening tests include:
Increasing age, a family history of the disease, genetic mutations, race, gender, early menstruation and late menopause can all increase the risk of breast cancer. Obesity can increase the risk of breast cancer as well as dense breast tissue, which is a risk factor on its own and makes it harder to read a mammogram. Lifestyle factors, like drinking alcohol, may increase risk.
Current guidelines advise women between ages 40 and 44 to consult with their doctor as to whether they should have a mammogram. The American Cancer Society suggests Women between ages 45 and 54 are recommended to have a mammogram annually, while those over age 55 should have the screening every other year. Women who are at an increased risk of breast cancer may be advised to have earlier or more frequent mammograms.