The Picture of Health
Mammograms help minimize risk of breast cancer
A woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every 19 seconds. Every 74 seconds, somewhere in the world, someone dies from breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer and is the leading cause of cancer death among women worldwide.
Dr. Neelima Chintapalli, medical oncologist and hematologist at CHRSISTUS Cancer Treatment Center, explains how important annual mammograms are for women.
“The number one thing you can do to help reduce your risk of breast cancer is get your annual mammogram and do monthly selfbreast exams,” said Dr. Chintapalli. “Early detection is key when it comes to breast cancer treatment. The earlier we can treat the cancer with surgery, radiation, chemo or any combination of those, the better. We are seeing women survive more and more because they are proactive in their health. “ Mammography has helped reduce breast cancer mortality in the U.S. by nearly 40 percent since 1990 thanks to early detection. Results of multiple long-term studies, doctors’ advice and recommended guidelines could not be any clearer: Women who get regular screening mammograms cut their risk of dying of breast cancer by about half.
Dr. Chintapalli recommends women get an annual mammogram generally around the age of 40, and if you have a family history of breast cancer, that age could be younger.
“It is vital for your doctor to have a complete picture of your health, and that includes your family’s health,” says Dr. Chintapalli. “Women should speak with their physician about when to start mammograms as family history and other health issues may increase their risk factor, and they might need to start having mammograms earlier.”
Family history isn’t the only thing that puts women at high risk for breast cancer. Studies have shown that the risk for breast cancer is due to a combination of factors, including simply being a woman and getting older. Most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old or older.
Other risk factors include:
• Getting older
• Family history
• Reproductive history
• Genetic mutations
“As you get older, your risk for breast cancer increases. That is why I would encourage all women to speak up and talk to your physician about any changes in your breast or your health. The sooner we can treat the cancer, the better the outcome will likely be.”
Treatment varies for patients and their particular type of breast cancer, but some options include surgery, radiation and chemo.
“There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer for breast cancer treatment,” says Chintapalli. “At CHRISTUS Cancer Treatment Center, we work with our patients and personalize their treatment to their type of breast cancer. Some patients only need surgery while other patients might need chemo, radiation and surgery. It’s important to educate yourself and ask your cancer team questions about treatment options.”