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Breast Cancer One of The Most Common Cancers in The World

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world, particularly in Southwest Louisiana. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Because a cancer diagnosis is so intimidating, understanding the facts behind screening and diagnosis is important. It’s been shown that the earlier breast cancer is detected, the better the outcome for the patient. This means that regular screening to detect breast cancer is very important for all women, and particularly women who are classed as high risk due to genetic factors.

Understanding the language around a diagnosis is important, too—getting the news of a breast cancer diagnosis is difficult enough, and confusing terminology can make it more difficult. Memorial Medical Group Breast Cancer Surgeon Amanda Ellington, MD, has started a high-risk breast clinic at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital and is trying to clear away some of the confusion around breast cancer screening and diagnosis.

“Screening refers to finding an abnormality before any sign or symptom of breast cancer exists,” says Ellington. “When cancers are detected by mammography, they're typically smaller, they're at an earlier stage and can be easier to treat. Getting mammograms will not prevent you from getting breast cancer. It’s meant to detect it early.”

Mammography is the gold standard for screening. Recent developments in the technology behind mammography means that results are highly sensitive and in-depth. This can occasionally mean a breast abnormality can be flagged as something dangerous pending a biopsy, which of course can cause distress, but it is worth the risk with the higher detection rates. Memorial Breast Health uses this state-of-the-art technology with 3-D mammography available at both Memorial Hospital and Memorial Hospital for Women.

It’s also important to do regular self-check of your breasts. While the majority of breast masses are not cancer, it is always better to have this confirmed by a physician. Often times, masses in breasts are cysts, fibrocystic tissue or some other benign growth—these are usually just observed, but can be removed if they cause discomfort to the patient.

“I never discourage women from doing self breast exams,” says Ellington. “I think it’s important that you should know what your breasts typically feel like, but I don’t recommend self-diagnosis. You should go to your physician and have them do an exam to see if they can feel what you’re feeling.”

Once a patient has an abnormal finding on a mammogram, a biopsy is taken to confirm a breast cancer diagnosis. A needle is inserted into the lesion and a sample of the tissue is taken for analysis. Biopsies help confirm the exact nature of whatever was found on the mammogram to help surgeons come up with the best plan of attack.

“You want to know as a surgeon what you’re getting into before you operate on a patient. Are you dealing with a breast cancer? Are you dealing with a fibroadenoma? Those are two very different surgeries,” says Ellington.

After a biopsy is performed and a cancer diagnosis is confirmed, a team of doctors including surgeons, oncologists and radiologists come together to form a plan for treatment, which can include any combination of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. The important part is to get screened regularly.

“Stage one breast cancer 10 year survival is over 95 percent with treatment. Early diagnosis is ideal,” Ellington says. “Routine breast exams and awareness of your own risk factors is very important, and screening mammography remains at the core of earlier diagnosis.”

To schedule a mammography, reach out to your physician or contact Lake Charles Memorial Breast Health at (337) 480-7444.