About Breast Cancer
Aside from skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in the United States. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to the warning signs, do regular self-breast exams, and get annual screenings.
Risks and 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.Think you are at risk? Use the online Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool from the National Cancer Institute.
Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing any of these warning signs:
- Swelling of 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
Self-Exams and 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%. Make sure to do a self-breast exam once a month to check for any changes in your breasts. If you’re unsure how to do a self-exam, your doctor can show you how.
In addition to self-exams, 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.
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.
Learn more about screening and prevention
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If you have an irregular 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), you’ll need to begin cancer treatment.
Learn more about testing and diagnosis
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, or radiation, 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.
Learn more about cancer care teams
Learn more about treatment options
Living Well in Tough Times
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.
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