4 Things You Should Know About Breast Cancer

CHICAGO (CBS) — October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the perfect time to learn about your risk.

But with new information coming out every day, finding the answers you need can be difficult.

Dr. Laura Farrington, a medical oncologist at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, talks with CBS 2’s Marissa Bailey about risks and gives us four things you need to know about breast cancer:

Breast cancer is limited to your breasts: true or false? The answer is false. Women need to realize that breast tissue extends deep into the armpit and up towards the collarbone. It’s important to thoroughly check these areas during regular self-breast examinations.

A lump is always the first sign of breast cancer: true or false? This is false. While a pea-size lump is among the most common signs of breast cancer, there are other symptoms that women should be aware of, such as non-stop itching, breast swelling, nipple inversion, redness, or nipple discharge. Any symptom that persists and seems out of the ordinary, should be brought to the attention of your doctor.

Women age 40 and older should have annual mammograms: true or false? While there has been considerable back and forth on this subject, the current guidelines from the American Cancer Society recommend that women with an average risk of breast cancer begin annual mammography screening at age 45, with the option to start sooner, at age 40. After age 55, mammograms may be performed every two years, but again, this only applies to women at an “average risk” of developing breast cancer, which refers to those with no known genetic mutation, no personal history, and no history of breast cancer in a first degree relative. Women with an elevated risk should get an MRI and mammogram annually.

Breast Cancer is not one disease, but rather a term used to describe many diseases: true or false? This is true, and a very important point. Historically, when a patient was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, the first course of action was to see a surgeon and have the cancer removed either via a mastectomy or a lumpectomy. After surgery, the patient would then be referred to another doctor for radiation and chemotherapy. This approach is outdated. The modern approach to treating early breast cancer requires an oncologist to answer one important question before treatment: “What kind of breast cancer are we dealing with?” Breast cancer is not one disease, but represents a spectrum of diseases of different biologic types. The principles of treatment for each biologic type are the same, however the treatment plan is different for each biological type.

To learn more about breast cancer awareness, visit the Cancer Treatment Centers of America’s breast cancer page. If you’d like to learn more about the Cancer Treatment Centers of America’s Midwestern Regional Medical Center in Chicago, visit the website.

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