After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women in the United States.
According to the American Cancer Society, the average risk of a woman in the United States developing breast cancer sometime in her life is about 13 percent – or a 1 in 8 chance. In 2020, an estimated 276,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer and about 48,530 new cases of carcinoma in situ (non-invasive and the earliest form of breast cancer) will be diagnosed in women.
About 42,170 women will die from breast cancer, and while breast cancer death rates have been steady in women younger than 50, they have decreased by 1.3 percent per year in older women. It is believed that this is “the result of finding breast cancer earlier through screening and increased awareness, as well as better treatments,” the American Cancer Society (ASC) said on its website.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some warning signs of breast cancer include:
- A new lump in the breast or underarm (armpit)
- Thickening or swelling of part of breast
- Irritation or dimpling of breast skin
- Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast
- Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood
- Any change in the size or the shape of the breast
- Pain in any area of the breast
However, these symptoms do not exactly equate breast cancer, said Brian Johnson, DO, a diagnostic radiologist with Trinity Health who is fellowship-trained in breast imaging. As a breast specialist, Dr. Johnson provides expertise and support for the full range of Trinity Health’s breast imaging services, including digital mammography, MRI, ultrasound, and minimally-invasive breast biopsy.
“Different people have different symptoms. Not all those signs and symptoms are always suggestive of breast cancer,” Dr. Johnson said, adding that mammography and ultrasound are paramount to further evaluate the symptoms to see if it is indeed breast cancer, as well as identifying breast cancer in the asymptomatic woman.
The American Cancer Society’s recommendations for women at average risk suggest that women between the ages of 40 and 44 should have the option of starting screening with a mammogram every year; then from age 45 to 54, women should get mammograms every year until they are 55, at which time they can switch to getting mammograms every other year or choose to continue annual mammograms. “Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live at least 10 more years,” the ACS said on its website.
The ACS defines a woman at average risk as meaning that she doesn’t have a personal history of breast cancer; a strong family history of breast cancer; or a genetic mutation known to increase risk of breast cancer, such as the BRCA gene; and has not had chest radiation therapy before the age of 30.
Patients who wish to have a mammogram should schedule an appointment by calling Trinity Health’s Mammography Scheduling Line at 701-857-2640, or in Williston at Trinity Community Clinic – Western Dakota, at 701-774-0810.