After undergoing a lumpectomy, Karen McGowan of Swedesboro faced questions that thousands of women face every year. Will I need chemo? Radiation? Some other treatment? And because it was March 2020, another question was on her mind. Would she be comfortable going to a hospital for treatment just as COVID-19 was arriving in South Jersey?
It’s normal for a person’s breasts to change during her lifetime. They can change size, feel different in texture and be a source of pain or tenderness especially during breastfeeding and menopause. And while most of these changes are caused by things other than cancer, it’s still important for people to be informed about breast cancer warning signs and screenings so they can catch breast cancer in its early stages.
The warning signs of breast cancer can vary greatly from person to person, but there are some warning signs you can look out for, according to the American Cancer Society, including:
- Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)
- Nipple retraction (turning inward)
- Pain in the breast or nipple
- Redness, scaliness or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
- Skin irritation
- Swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no distinct lump is felt)
The majority of breast cancers are caught before symptoms appear, thanks in part to people getting a mammogram as part of their wellness routine. A mammogram is an X-ray taken of each of breast to check for tumors or other abnormalities. The availability of 3D mammography technology allows doctors to more accurately examine breast tissue and reduces the amount of re-screening appointments and both false-positive and false-negative readings. Inspira offers 3D mammography, ultrasound and MRI breast imaging at six locations.
If you have never had a mammogram before and are anxious about the process, know that it is a simple procedure. You’ll be positioned in front of the machine by a technician and your breast will be held in place by two compression plates. The plates will be moved to capture both top-to-bottom and side-to-side images of each breast.
It’s recommended that each woman starts to talk with her doctor about screening at age 40. Annual or bi-annual screenings are recommended based on age and other risk factors. Genetic testing may also be discussed for those who have a high risk of breast cancer.
Everyone should be aware of how their breasts look and feel. If you are concerned with certain changes to your breast health or want to schedule a mammogram at Inspira, you can schedule online or call (856) 575-4887 or 1-800-INSPIRA.
Sources: American Cancer Society and NCCN Guidelines.