When it comes to breast cancer, early detection is the key to a higher chance of a positive outcome. According to data from the National Cancer Institute, women with localized breast cancer have a five-year survival rate of 99% – something the doctors at Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA) credit to proactive steps women can take to catch breast cancer as early as possible. Here’s a closer look at the three nuances of early breast cancer detection and what you can expect at RCCA.
1. Breast Exams
In 2015, the American Cancer Society (ACS) stopped recommending breast self-examinations and clinical breast examinations for women at average risk for developing breast cancer. It reviewed studies suggesting that these preventative measures didn’t make a significant difference in the early detection of breast cancer. It also felt that high awareness and the availability of mammography screenings are sufficient enough to catch the disease early.
However, the expert oncologists at RCCA respectfully disagree and recommend that all women conduct periodical self-examinations, as well as schedule routine clinical breast exams. This is because a number of our patients have found a lump or abnormal mass during self-examinations or clinical exams – even after a mammogram or ultrasound produced negative results.
While the ACS suggests women at average risk wait until age 45 to start annual mammography screenings, other organizations recommend starting at age 40. Our position at RCCA is that women should have mammograms annually starting at age 40 because the sooner screening starts, the earlier breast cancer can be detected.
In addition, the ACS recommends that once women reach age 55 or older and have a life expectancy of at least 10 years, they can opt to have mammography screenings once every two years. However, our oncologists believe that it makes sense for most women to continue with annual mammograms for the best possible chance of early breast cancer detection.
3. Genetic Screening
Aside from breast exams and mammograms, women with a family history of breast cancer or who have other risk factors should consider undergoing genetic screening. BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are some of the most commonly tested for mutations linked to breast cancer. However, there are other genes that researchers have identified as potential indicators of elevated risk, including:
- NAT1 and NAT2
- And many more…
Expanded genetic panels are available that test for many genes linked to the development of breast cancer. If you’ve never had genetic testing for breast cancer, or if it’s been more than a few years since your last genetic screening, RCCA recommends meeting with your physician or genetics counselor to determine if you should be screened with a broader panel.
Trusted Provider of Preventative Testing
While more than 268,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, women have access to several effective methods for early detection, yielding a better outlook than ever before. Should you be diagnosed with the disease, rest assured that you can receive unrivaled treatment and care from the more than 80 cancer specialists and 800 staff members of RCCA. With more than 20 locations in Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey and the Washington, DC area, you’ll have access to the latest advancements in medicine and state-of-the-art technology to put you on the road to recovery.