Salt Lake City, UT -- (ReleaseWire) -- 10/25/2020 --October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Intermountain Healthcare medical experts say individuals shouldn't let COVID-19 scare them away from breast cancer screening. It's safe and incredibly important and could save lives.
"Simply put, mammography screenings save lives," said Terence Rhodes, MD, Intermountain St. George Cancer Center Medical Director. "Survival rates are highest when breast cancer is detected in the earliest stages. Knowing if you are at increased risk, such as having a family history of breast cancer, will help determine the optimal age (age 40) to begin breast cancer screenings. Some women may need screening earlier based on their family history."
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. Approximately one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime.
The American Cancer Society estimates 250,000 women receive a diagnosis of breast cancer each year. There are also an estimated 3.1 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
Advances in awareness, screening, and treatment of breast cancer have greatly improved survival rates over the last 30 years, according to Dr. Rhodes. Early diagnosis is key to surviving breast cancer. This is why mammogram screenings and self-exams are so important.
"Women should discuss their family history and breast cancer risk with a healthcare professional to know when to begin mammography screenings," said Dr. Rhodes. Routine screenings, which should begin at age 40, establishes a baseline image of healthy breast tissue to compare to future screenings so clinicians will know right away if something has changed.
Risk factors for breast cancer include: being a woman, being over 40 years old, and having changes in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Women may be at higher risk if they have close family members with breast cancer, a personal history of certain non-cancerous breast conditions, and/or a known genetic mutation (such as BRCA).
"It's important to know your family history of breast cancer and other cancers," said Dr. Rhodes. "Knowing if your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, and children had cancer, what type of cancer, and at what age they were diagnosed, will help your primary care physician determine when and what type of cancer screenings to do to help find cancer early when it is easier to treat."
Women at higher risk may benefit from additional screenings and treatments to reduce their risk of developing breast cancer.
The new Intermountain High Risk Breast Clinic provides individualized counseling regarding breast cancer and ways to reduce your risk. The clinic also provides recommendations regarding optimal breast cancer screening, with the goal of early detection. Genetic testing and counseling services are all available when appropriate.
"The best way to lower risk of death from breast cancer is to catch it early," added Dr. Rhodes. "Mammography screenings can identify breast cancer very early and should be done yearly. Breast cancer risk in general can be lowered by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and eating a healthy diet."
Breast cancer risk can also be lowered by breastfeeding your newborns, limiting alcohol intake, and stopping or not smoking. Breast cancer risk can also be affected by hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills.
Discussing your personal risk factors with your medical provider will help you know when to begin screening and if you might be a good candidate for the High Risk Breast Clinic.
To learn more about Intermountain Healthcare's High Risk Breast Clinic, call 833-321-2244 or visit intermountainhealthcare.org/medical-specialties/cancer-care/cancers-we-treat/breast-cancer/high-risk-breast-clinic.
Remember, breast cancer is very survivable when diagnosed early. Don't let COVID-19 scare you away, schedule your routine mammography screening today.
Call Dixie Regional Mammography at 435-251-1777 or Cedar City Hospital Radiology at 435-868-5300 for more information or to schedule an appointment. Or visit the provider in your area.
About Intermountain Healthcare
Intermountain Healthcare is a not-for-profit system of 24 hospitals, 215 clinics, a Medical Group with 2,500 employed physicians and advanced practice clinicians, a health insurance company called SelectHealth, and other health services in Idaho, Utah, and Nevada. Intermountain is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes and sustainable costs. For more information, see intermountainhealthcare.org.