Get screened for breast cancer - and it could save your life

Statistics show that breast cancer death rates are dropping. - American Cancer Society
Statistics show that breast cancer death rates are dropping.
— image credit: American Cancer Society

Courtesy of Franciscan Health System

You’ve heard the statistic before: One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. So chances are you know someone who has been affected by the disease, and you may be wondering what you can do to stay cancer-free.

One of the most important things you can do is get screened annually.

“If you develop breast cancer, the earlier it’s detected, the easier it is to treat,” said Richard Gould, MD, division chief for Surgical Services, Franciscan Medical Group.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends annual mammograms starting at age 40. If you have a family history of the disease or other risk factors, your doctor may suggest starting mammograms earlier. The ACS also recommends clinical breast exams every three years for women in their 20s and 30s, and annually for women ages 40 and older.

It’s important that women perform regular breast self-exams. Research shows that you don’t have to follow any specific method — just get familiar with what’s normal for your breasts. Check your breasts about once a month so you’ll be able to know if something doesn’t feel right.

If your mammogram shows an abnormality, you may be called to have a second clarifying mammogram, or your doctor may recommend a biopsy.

“We’re often able to schedule the biopsy within a day or two to minimize the amount of time patients wait,” Dr. Gould said.

Every patient and every lump is different, so the diagnostic tests a person receives may vary, and may include an ultrasound or an MRI.

The Women’s Health and Breast Center in Federal Way — a designated NQMBC Center of Excellence — gets high marks for excellent patient care and treats women with a holistic approach offering:

• Alternative medicine and therapies

• Bone density testing

• Digital and screening mammography

• Incontinence and pelvic pain

• Oncology skin care therapy

• Ultrasound

• Access to support groups

Franciscan surgeons offer different surgical procedures for treating cancer, including a  lumpectomy (removing the tumor and some tissue around it) or a mastectomy (removing the entire breast). For women who choose a mastectomy, general surgeons work alongside plastic surgeons who reconstruct the breast either during the same procedure or in a later one.

Patients may also undergo chemotherapy before or after surgery, depending on the type and size of the tumor. Patients who have a lumpectomy often receive radiation to eliminate microscopic cells that may remain after the surgery.

Screening is important, and learning that you have breast cancer can change your life in an instant.

Learn more

The Women’s Health and Breast Center is located at the St. Francis Medical Pavilion, 34503 Ninth Ave. S., Suite 320, Federal Way, WA 98003. Call (253) 944-4025.


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