COLUMBIA, Mo. ─ In the United States, breast cancer is the second-most common form of cancer among women, after skin cancer, with approximately 200,000 new cases diagnosed each year. As part of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Paul Dale, M.D., chief of surgical oncology at Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, encourages women to schedule regular screenings to catch the disease early.
“The earlier you find breast cancer, the less of a chance there is of it spreading to the lymph nodes or spreading throughout the body, so the chance of surviving the disease is greater,” said Dale, who also holds the titles of Margaret Proctor Mulligan Distinguished Professor in Medical Research and interim director of Ellis Fischel Cancer Center. “Today, we are curing about 75 percent of women with breast cancer, and a lot of that has to do with early detection.”
Breast cancer is most effectively treated when diagnosed in its early stages. To increase the likelihood of catching breast cancer early, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends women get screened for breast cancer regularly at age 40.
Women younger than 40 who have risk factors for the disease should consult their physicians about the best screening method for them. Risk factors include:
• A family history of breast cancer
• Age — the older you are, the greater your risk
• Never having given birth
• Being older than 30 at the birth of your first child
• Not having breastfed a child
• Having had a first menstrual period before age 12
• A history of benign breast disease that required biopsies
• Having other breast conditions
But even women without risk factors need regular breast cancer screening.
“Of the women diagnosed with breast cancer, about 70 percent have no family members with breast cancer or any other risk factors,” said Dale.
To reduce your risk for the disease or help catch it early, the CDC also recommends exercise and keeping a healthy weight, limiting alcohol consumption, knowing your family history of the disease, and finding out risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy for post-menopausal women.
To schedule a breast cancer screening at Ellis Fischel, please call (573) 882-8511.