KANSAS CITY, KAN. The best way to beat breast cancer is early detection, the coordinator of the Breast Cancer Screening Center at Kansas University Medical Center says.
Ann Szilagye, a registered nurse, said regular self-examinations and mammograms can help women ward off breast cancer, the second major cause of cancer death among females.
One in nine women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society. In the United States, breast cancer is expected to claim the lives of 44,500 women and 300 men this year.
Next month is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which Szilagye hopes will encourage more women to begin monthly breast self-examinations.
JOINED IN AN interview last week by Paula Lang, program coordinator for the state's Cancer Information Service, and Dr. Ace Allen, an oncologist, Szilagye said women should have a baseline mammogram at age 35. Women between 40 and 49 should have a mammogram every one to two years, and women older than 50 should have a mammogram every year.
When women do self-exams, they should look for any lumps in their breasts, thickening, discharge from the nipples or retraction, also called "dimpling" of the breasts.
Although 80 percent of breasts lumps are benign, Szilagye said it's better for women to consult with their physicians than to ignore a lump.
"If you see something in your breast for two weeks, you need to go to a doctor," she said. "If it's been there a month, you should've been there already."
FEELING A MODEL of a breast, Szilagye showed how a mammogram can detect lumps that can't be felt by touch, explaining that is why regular mammograms are so important.
Allen said mammograms aren't perfect and advised that they be done in conjunction with a physical examination.
"A mammogram and physical exam are very complimentary," Allen said. "You can certainly feel things that a mammogram won't show" and vice versa.
Allen said it's important that women have their mammograms done at a "dedicated mammography unit," one that does only mammograms, and Lang, who coordinates the state's toll-free cancer hotline, said Lawrence Memorial Hospital and Lawrence Imaging Associates both are accredited by the American College of Radiology, as is the med center clinic.
WOMEN WHO ARE predisposed to breast cancer are those with a prior history of breast cancer and a history of breast cancer in a mother or sister.
"Those are the big red flags," Allen said.
Other factors include:
The age at which the woman started to menstruate if she starts before age 12, she's at higher risk.
The age a woman had her first child younger mothers gain more protection from the cancer.
Whether she had any biopsies of her breast, particularly before menopause.
Allen also said that alcohol abuse is beginning to be noticed as a predisposing factor.
TREATMENT FOR breast cancer includes a lumpectomy, local removal of the tumor; mastectomy, surgical removal of the breast; radiation therapy, chemotherapy or hormone manipulation therapy.
Lang said women with breast cancer have more choices these days, and Allen said mastectomies are not as common as they once were.
He said early detection can help save a woman's breast, and Szilagye and Lang urged women not to put off consulting their physicians because of fear or embarrassment.
"It's better to pester the doctor than let it go," Lang said.
For more information about breast cancer, call the state's cancer hotline, which is at the med center, at 1-800-4-CANCER.
For mammogram appointments in Lawrence, call Lawrence Memorial Hospital's radiology department, 749-6195, or Lawrence Imaging Associates, 841-2000. Women can call for their own appointments but must have a physician to review the mammograms. For an appointment at the KUMC Breast Cancer Screening Center, call 1-588-4746.