By Trudi Brown, MD, FACS – Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center Medical Director
Breast self-exams are one of the most important things that women can do to protect their health. There can be very subtle changes to breasts that only a patient who is regularly performing self-exams will be able to detect.
The most important thing is for women to actually look at their breasts. They should inspect for changes to the breasts’ usual size, shape, and color. Women should also examine whether the breasts are visibly distorted or swollen and if the nipple has changed, such as becoming inverted. Other important things to be aware of during a breast self-exam are lumps, rashes, and discharge.
If a woman should happen to find something during a self-exam, she should contact her healthcare provider immediately for an examination and a mammogram. Performing a breast self-exam in combination with other screening methods, such as mammograms, can increase the odds of early cancer detection.
Yearly mammograms are the only way that doctors can reliably assess the breast for early breast cancer. Changes in the mammogram, such as calcium deposits or thickness of the breast tissue, could indicate an early type of breast cancer, which is typically easier to treat. Early breast cancer means cancer that usually has not spread or gone to the lymph nodes. It can be treated with smaller operations, and often doesn’t even need chemotherapy or radiation.
In the last several years, there have been many advancements in the treatment of breast cancer. Breast cancers are being found at a much earlier rate, particularly with the addition of tomography, or 3D mammograms, in addition to traditional mammograms.
Breast cancers that used to have to be treated with a mastectomy can now frequently be treated with a lumpectomy, where only a portion of the breast is removed, or oncoplastic surgery, where women can have their cancer removed while preserving the physical appearance of their breasts.
To schedule your mammogram at the Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center, call 814-467-3438.
About Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center
The Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center (JMBCC) opened in February 2002 offering comprehensive and personalized breast care in one convenient location. The JMBCC is exists to prevent and treat diseases of the breast and other conditions that can impact the lives of the women served. The tools and techniques used include digital mammography, ultrasound, breast biopsies, breast MRI, bone densitometry, genetic counseling, research studies, and a female breast surgeon on-site.
About Chan Soon-Shiong Medical Center at Windber
Founded in 1906, Chan Soon-Shiong Medical Center at Windber (CSSMCW) is an independent, non-profit acute care hospital in northern Somerset County, bordering Cambria County. The 54-bed hospital shares a campus and collaborates with Chan Soon-Shiong Institute of Molecular Medicine at Windber (CSSIMMW), a private, non-profit biomedical research center. With more than 450 employees, CSSMCW is the fourth largest employer in Somerset County. CSSMCW’s mission is to provide excellence in personalized, quality health care services through innovation, research and education in response to community needs. For more information visit www.windbercare.org