In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I thought it would be a great time to talk about the importance of self diagnosis, regularly scheduled mammograms, and what questions you should ask your doctor if you are diagnosed with breast cancer.
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, every woman should have an early detection plan. An Early Detection Plan will remind you to perform routine breast self-exams and to schedule clinical breast exams and mammograms, depending on your age and health history. You can even set up your own Early Detection Plan on the site!
Did you know that according to the MayoClinic, about 40% of breast cancers were discovered as the result of lumps or suspicious changes found during breast exams by the women themselves. This is the reason that self-exam is so important!
A self breast exam is simple to do, and should be done each month a few days after your period has ended. emedicinehealth has a great article on how to perform a breast self-exam that’s easy to follow and can be printed out and kept in your bathroom.
According to the MayoClinic, many women begin getting regularly mammograms at age 40 (regular being every one to two years.) The American Cancer Society advises women with an average risk to begin mammograms at age 40.
What is a mammogram? It’s an X-ray image of your breast used to screen for breast cancer. Mammograms definitely are important to early breast cancer detection. During the process, your breasts are compressed between two firm surfaces in order to spread out the breast tissue, and an X-ray captures black-and-white images of your breasts. Your doctor will then use the X-rays to detect changes and cancer.
Questions to Ask if You Are Diagnosed With Breast Cancer
Dr. Daniel Marc Landis, MD, PhD is a radiation oncologist based in Seattle, WA, where he works out of the nationally-renowned Swedish Cancer Institute. He recently published 10 Questions on Avvo.com that should be asked if you are diagnosed with breast cancer. These are the questions:
1. What is the stage and type, and hormone receptor status of my breast cancer?
2. In terms of surgical options, what are the pros and cons of mastectomy versus lumpectomy?
3. Will I need radiation therapy if I have either a lumpectomy or if I have a mastectomy?
4. Are there any other tests that can be performed to determine my risk of recurrence?
5. Will I benefit from chemotherapy, and if so, what type and how much benefit would be seen?
6. Are there open clinical trials that would be applicable to me, or are there recent results of trials that would be useful to my case?
7. What will be the expected and possible unexpected side effects of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation (if all those apply)?
8.Â What can I personally do to improve my chance of cure and to minimize side effects of therapy?
9. Do you think that reconstructive surgery will be applicable for me, or necessary?
10. What other resources are available to me including support groups, physical therapy, nutritionists, or possible alternative/complementary therapies?
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with breast cancer, please share this list with them. I know I will be bookmarking this page and hoping I’ll never have to ask these questions myself.