1999-10-30 / Columnists

Chatting With Chapey

by Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey

Breast Cancer: Why Do I Want To Know?

Early detection of breast cancer can save your life. Early detection gives
one more options!

Although there are a variety of medical opinions most agree that all women over the age of forty should have a yearly mammogram, a yearly breast examination by a doctor and a monthly self-examination. Women under 40 should talk to their physicians or health care providers to determine the appropriate course of action for them.

If you have never had a mammography before, it is a relatively quick and efficient way to detect cancer at an early stage. Some women are naturally concerned about the thought that mammograms use radiation. However, according to Friedewald and Buzdar, the radiation dose in a mammogram is very small and quite safe. If breast cancer is discovered early, current treatments are very effective and the survival rate is high.

My cousin had a double mastectomy 50 years ago and is still around to tell us about it. Therefore, early detection has always been an effective approach.

Today, early detection can mean much less surgery. The chance of developing breast cancer certainly increases with age. According to Dr. Vincent Friedewald and Dr. Aman Buzdar, in their informative book entitled "Ask the Doctor: Breast Cancer," published in 1997 by Andrews and McMeel-a Universal Press Syndicate Company- "more than three fourths of breast cancers develop in women who are over age 50 and
more than half occur in women ages 65 and over." Younger women get
breast cancer but it is statistically less likely.

Heredity is one factor, which should be evaluated. If breast cancer tends to run in your family--that is, if your mother, sister or daughter have experienced the disease--you are one and one half to three times more likely to develop the disease. However, 75 percent of women in this category will never develop it.

When you are choosing a place to have the mammogram, make sure that it is certified by the Food and Drug Administration. These designations mean that the facility has met high standards for quality and safety.
Today most hospitals can perform this procedure or you can choose an x-ray center. Mobile units which visit comminutes are also appropriate. Congress enacted legislation, which took effect in 1994 which requires that all places performing mammagraphies must be licensed. This provides for a uniform standard of quality control at each site.

Since October has been designated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month
women should use this time to schedule a medical check up.


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