Breast Health

Every single woman is at risk for breast cancer and even some men are at risk for breast cancer. Over our lifetimes as women, one in eight of us will have breast cancer. Some women who have breast cancer have a genetic predisposition to breast cancer but most women who have breast cancer don't. Three out of four women with breast cancer don't have any family history. Breast cancer risks increase with things that we can control and some things that we can't control. Women are more likely to get breast cancer than men. We can't control that hormone status. We can control whether we take extra hormones or not, but our body makes its own hormones and we can't control that.

It's important for women to pay attention to their breasts. If you notice something different with your breasts, you need to bring it to your doctor’s attention. It's very important to start screening for breast cancer. We want to make sure you get an exam once a year or every other year as part of your routine health maintenance. Don't smoke, maintain a healthy weight, get lots of exercise, eat healthy foods - those things are important for your overall health as well as your breast health. We know that if you exercise 30 minutes a day, it decreases your risk for breast cancer along with a lot of other cancers.

Things that can signal a problem with your breasts are a new lump or a bump, skin changes such as redness or sometimes soreness or nipple changes like nipple discharge, or a shape change in your nipple, a shape change in your breast. Those things can be indicators that something's going on, not necessarily breast cancer, but something that we should look at. Most breast cancer doesn't cause pain so you do not need to be alarmed if you experience breast pain, but you should still get it checked out

Most doctors recommend that women start screening mammograms at age 40 and get them every year. There's been some research that was just released that shows that women who start mammograms at 40 and have them every year have less chance of dying over the next 10 years from breast cancer than women who don't start mammograms until age 50. it's important to know that you do not need to have a doctor's order or your doctor's permission to get a breast screening mammogram. You just have to call up the hospital and ask for the mammogram department and let them know that you want a screening mammogram and they will take care of everything for you.

Most women benefit from a 3D mammogram and most insurances will pay for a 3D mammogram. The 3D mammogram helps us see things in more dense breast tissue. It helps us find breast cancers and pre-cancers at a smaller stage. And it also helps us know when something isn't a breast cancer. With a 3D mammogram we get a better look at the breast and allows us to determine if we need a biopsy, so having a 3D mammogram decreases your chance of having a biopsy that shows nothing. Most women who have an abnormal mammogram will talk with somebody the day of their mammogram that helps them to understand why they want to get a better look at that tissue, so if you get an abnormal mammogram we'll have you come back and get some further studies. Sometimes it's another mammogram, sometimes it's an ultrasound. Those things help us look at the tissue more closely to see if it's really something to be worried about or if it's not a big deal. One thing to note is we are getting a brand new mammogram biopsy machine here at Grand Itasca that will make biopsies more comfortable and a lot more efficient, so quicker. You're not going to have as much time being uncomfortable with a stereotactic biopsy

After the biopsy, every patient who has a biopsy gets an appointment with a surgeon to discuss the results, because, number one, we want to make sure that the biopsy site doesn't have any infection or any excessive bruising or anything that makes us concerned. Number two, we want to make sure that the patient understands the findings of the biopsies, and the next steps. Many times, there's nothing that needs to be done other than just a follow-up mammogram in six months. Other times, patients will need to have a surgery for further evaluation or treatment of whatever that breast finding was.

The other thing is that many women worry if they've had a biopsy, if they have a lump, if they have a spot. It causes excessive anxiety and that can't sleep, they find themselves trying to check and see if they can feel that spot even though it's tiny. And in those cases sometimes we just take that lump out even though we've had a biopsy that shows it's benign. If it's causing distress and we take it out, once it's in a jar headed down to the lab, we know it's never going to bother them again.