Breast cancer detection enter new era

by Dr. William Ritt
For The Review

You’ve most likely heard the statistics about the prevalence of breast cancer. It remains the most common newly diagnosed type of cancer and the second highest cause of death in women.

According to the American Cancer society the death rate from breast cancer was increasing until 1990 when the advent of widespread screening began to have an effect on the population. The death rate from breast cancer in this country decreased by 34% between 1990 and 2010.

The outlook for women with breast cancer varies by the stage (extent) of the cancer. In general, the survival rates are higher for women with earlier-stage cancers. But the outlook for each woman is specific to her circumstances.

The five-year relative survival rate for women with stage 0 or stage I breast cancer is close to 100%.

For women with stage II breast cancer, the five-year relative survival rate is about 93%.

Breast cancers found during screening exams are more likely to be smaller and still confined to the breast. The size of a breast cancer and how far it has spread are some of the most important factors in predicting the prognosis of a woman with this disease.

The most commonly used breast cancer screening tools are:


Breast ultrasound

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)

The American Cancer Society offers the following guidelines for women at average risk for developing breast cancer.

Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms, if they wish to do so. The risks of screening as well as the potential benefits should be considered.

Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.

Women age 55 and older could switch to mammograms every two years, or have the choice to continue yearly screening.

Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.

All women should be familiar with how their breasts normally look and feel and report any changes to a health care provider right away.

Breast cancer symptoms may include:

A change in how the breast or nipple feels, including tenderness, a lump in the breast or in the armpit or a change in skin texture

A change in breast or nipple appearance, including size, dimpling, swelling, shrinking, asymmetry or inverted nipples

Spontaneous or bloody nipple discharge

While mammograms cannot prevent cancer, most doctors feel that detection tests for breast cancer help save thousands of lives each year. Some studies show that skipping just one annual screening can result in missing cancer in its earliest stage.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Now is the perfect time to talk with your health care provider about your own risks of developing this disease and to make a plan for regular or continued screenings.

Then talk with your mother, daughter, sister and your friends about the importance of having regular mammograms.

Dr. William Ritt is a general surgeon at Aurora Health Center in Plymouth and Sheboygan.

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