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Around Our Town: Wyoming Medical Center

Breast Cancer, a Constant Concern

10/01/2011 - by Charles Bowkley, III, M.D.

Breast cancer is a constant concern to women of all ages. One out of every eight women is expected to develop breast cancer over their lifetime. If you graduated from high school in a class of two hundred women, twenty-five of your classmates would develop breast cancer in their lifetime. That is a frightening, yet realistic number.

Although the incidence of developing breast cancer increases throughout a woman's life, screening mammography has been shown to reduce the mortality associated with developing this disease. As a radiologist practicing medicine in Casper Wyoming, and the son of a breast cancer survivor, breast cancer detection and treatment are central to my daily practice.

The importance of early detection and treatment cannot be overstated. Recently there was a media frenzy covering the U. S. Preventative Services Heath Task Force (USPSTF) recommendations from 2009. The debate of whether to increase the initial age to 50 to begin screening was ever-present throughout the media. The debate continues, however, I strongly believe that the recommendation to begin annual screenings at age 40 is well supported by sufficient evidence. R. Hendrick and M. Helvie inspected the data regarding this debate and determined that beginning an annual screening program that followed a woman throughout her expected lifetime (40-84 years) saved 71% more lives than following the USPSTF guidelines proposing to follow women biennially from 50-74 years of age. The longer duration of follow-up and the earlier start date of screening provide roughly 40% reduction in mortality from breast cancer overall.

I firmly recommend that women with a strong family history of breast cancer discuss the necessity of screening mammography if they are younger than 40. Further, if a woman shows concerning symptoms or signs that may indicate a problem with her breast she should seek medical attention immediately. Some of these may include reddening or thickening of the breast skin, watery, brown, or greenish discharge from the nipple area, a lump under the skin in the breast or firm bumpy areas in the deep region of the axilla (armpit), and finally any change in the size of an individual breast either marked shrinking or enlargement of a solitary breast.

In conclusion, breast cancer is a serious, yet treatable disease. It remains a constant concern in the minds of women at all stages of life. The evidence supports the fact that screening mammography saves lives. If you have a problem related to your breast you should contact your medical provider immediately.

Dr. Charles Bowkley, III, M.D. is a neurointerventional radiologist with Casper Medical Imaging in Casper, Wyoming.

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