Breast Cancer Prevention

It’s All About The Breast

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In my clinical experience, there is almost nothing that midlife women fear more than breast cancer. So let me put the fear of breast cancer into perspective, so we can all spend less time worrying and more time living healthy, meaningful and fearless lives.

Here are 5 important things to know about breast health and wellness.

1. All breast cancers are not created equal

Younger, premenopausal women are diagnosed with more aggressive and deadlier breast cancers than women over fifty who are already on their way to menopause. So that means that even if these cancers are detected earlier, they are faster-growing and deadlier than their older counterparts.

2. Mammogram screening has good intentions

The whole point of mammography is to detect breast cancer early and reduce the number of deaths from this disease. An important point of screening tests in general is that they must achieve their goal without also causing harm.

3. Mammogram screening guidelines are changing

Change is always difficult, but change we must. So what’s the harm of doing mammograms every year, anyway? Well, it turns out that for the younger, premenopausal breasts, we are over-screening, performing more unnecessary biopsies and not reducing the number of deaths from breast cancer. This goes back to point #1. Younger breast cancers behave like Angry Birds and defy the logic behind early detection. So the American Cancer Society guidelines consider screening at 40 to be optional. The new recommendation is to start annual mammography screening at 45 and change to every other year at 55.

4. Can we ever graduate from the need for breast cancer screening?

Here comes another shocker. The answer to this question is “Yes.” The older we get, the more likely that a breast cancer will be a slow grower. That is why it is absolutely reasonable to get on the every other year screening bandwagon after the age of 55. At some point, we must ask ourselves how much longer we think we have to live and would we opt for surgery, radiation and chemotherapy in our later years. This is where it would be helpful to have a crystal ball in good working order. There is no right answer here. Only a few of us will be in this position, because the vast majority of us will be dying from heart disease!

5. It’s not all about the breast

I am thrilled to report that most of us will not be diagnosed with breast cancer. For those of us who will, this diagnosis is no longer the death sentence it used to be due to all of the excellent treatment options available. So as it turns out, it’s not all about the breast after all. We are much more than that. We are women from head to toe and everything in between.

So as I close out my blog, I would just like to tease you with I Left My Heart In San Francisco. Stay tuned to find out what that is all about!

Are you dealing with any of these issues? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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