Where’s Your Pink?

Be ready to don your pink during October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October 3, 2011 | Heather Burchfield

Dr. Ingrid Mayer giving an exam

Most of us have been touched by breast cancer in some way, especially since 12 percent of American women will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime according to the National Cancer Institute.  Some of us may even know men who have developed breast cancer. (Yes, men can get breast cancer too, but it is rare.)

Even though the root cause of developing breast cancer is not always known, there are preventative measures that can be taken. Dr. Ingrid Mayer, a medical oncologist at the Vanderbilt Breast Center, said that leading a healthy lifestyle is key to prevention. She recommended maintaining a healthy weight and exercise consistently for about three hours a week if possible. She also said to avoid hormone replacement therapy as well as daily alcohol consumption.

While performing those preventive measures is a good idea, when your body begins producing cancerous cells, it’s hard to make it stop without taking action. For this reason, detecting breast cancer early can save your life. Dr. Mayer said showing up for your yearly mammogram is important to detect breast cancer at an early stage.

Breast self-examinations are good to perform to see if you find something unusual, such as a lump, but your self-exams do not replace receiving a mammogram. Dr. Mayer said when performing self-examinations, you need to search for lumps, a bloody discharge from your nipple, and changes to the way your breast’s skin looks and its volume.

Dr. Mayer noted that many times suspicious findings are found by imaging, such as a mammogram or MRI. They can also be found by a physical exam, but to know whether the abnormality is cancer, a biopsy must be performed.  “The confirmatory diagnosis of cancer has to be done via core biopsy, and the pathologist determines if it is cancer or not,” she said.

Stay on top of your breast health. If it’s time for your yearly mammogram, have found an abnormality or have a family history of breast cancer, make an appointment at the Vanderbilt Breast Center. They are a comprehensive breast center that provides screening, diagnostic imaging, breast cancer diagnosis, treatment, follow-up, assessment of cancer risk and many other services. Find out more about the Vanderbilt Breast Center.

How can you get involved with raising breast cancer awareness?

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