Check—And Then Check Again
Aside from skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in the United States. That’s why it is so important to pay attention to the warning signs and complete annual screenings.
Risks & Warning Signs
Your risk for breast cancer increases as you get older. Other factors can also increase your risk, including family history, genetics, race, weight, diet, pregnancy history and lifestyle choices.
Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing any of these warning signs:
- Swelling on all or part of the breast
- Skin irritation or dimpling
- Breast pain
- Nipple pain or nipple turning inward
- Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk
- A lump in the underarm area
Exams & Screening
When you catch breast cancer early, before it has a chance to spread to other parts of your body, the cure rate is more than 90%.
You should get an annual mammogram, beginning at age 40. Mammograms take x-ray images of your breasts, using two panels that compress each breast as thinly as possible. This lets the technician get a good look at your breast tissue, to see if there are any unusual masses or nodules. In addition to traditional 2D mammography services, 3D mammograms, which capture x-ray images of the breast layer by layer, are available and recommended for women who have dense breast tissue.
The process can be a bit uncomfortable—it’ll feel like a really hard squeeze. A mammogram usually takes 30 minutes or less, but can take longer in certain instances. It is the best, most accurate way of detecting breast cancer.
Your primary care doctor or obstetrician/gynecologist can schedule a mammogram for you. Or, because mammograms don’t require a referral, you can schedule the appointment yourself.
If you have an abnormal mammogram, you’ll need to have additional testing. This may include another mammogram or ultrasound of your breast, and a biopsy. If your results are benign (non-cancerous), you and your doctor will discuss any additional follow-up plans that may be necessary to monitor your condition. If your results are malignant (cancerous), our cancer care team will provide expert recommendations for cancer treatment, and the support you need to take the next steps.
Breast cancer treatment begins with meeting a breast cancer specialist or surgeon. From here, you’ll discuss your treatment options and what will work best for you, and develop your care plan. Treatment could involve surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or estrogen blocking therapy, either separately or in combination.
At the beginning of and throughout the treatment process, all the members of your care team will meet to participate in a care conference. Your team will discuss your progress and recommend changes to your treatment, if necessary. You will always be informed of any changes to your care plan, and will have the final say in the treatment you receive.
ThedaCare Cancer Care specialists treat patients throughout northeast Wisconsin.
Support to Stay Well
Even after you’ve completed treatment, cancer is still a part of your life, both physically and emotionally. It can be hard to remember what “normal” feels like. Throughout the process of cancer care, ThedaCare offers support groups, programs, nutritional information, and other resources to improve your quality of life. Survivorship services are also available following the treatment phase for cancer survivors who are learning to adapt to normal life again. Our Behavioral Health Specialists can also provide one-on-one support. They’ll help you develop strategies for coping with your changing feelings throughout your breast cancer journey.