October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month — and as part of a greater awareness of breast cancer and its effects comes a greater awareness of the statistics surrounding breast cancer.
The numbers are staggering — one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Every 13 minutes a woman loses her battle with breast cancer. However, the numbers also share a story of hope and optimism. Ninety-six percent of women whose breast cancer is diagnosed early will be cancer free in five years.
The greatest lesson we can derive from the numbers is the importance of early detection and an understanding of the tools available for the greatest chance of success. It's important for women to know and understand what tests are available to detect and combat breast cancer early on.
The American Cancer Society recently updated its recommendations for breast cancer screenings that go beyond an annual mammography exam. Women who have first-degree relatives affected by breast cancer, a strong family history of breast or other types of cancer or a history of chest radiation between the ages of 10-30 years old should consider an annual breast MRI in addition to their annual mammogram. Women should discuss these and other important risk factors with their physician to determine the most effective way of screening for breast cancer.
Mammography is a reliable examination and breast MRI is not intended to replace traditional cancer screening methods, but instead act as a secondary screening option. The MRI can often provide a clearer look in identifying and locating tumors in the breast.
Dr. Scott Kendell of Mountain Medical Physicians Specialists has been working extensively with breast MRI for several years and affirms its role in screening high-risk patients for breast cancer.
"Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women today, but the great majority of women have a complete recovery when the cancer is detected and treated early. Breast MRI has been shown to be a useful adjunct exam to screening mammography in patients who are at high risk for breast cancer, such as those with a BRCA mutation."
Every woman should be aware of the risk factors, screening options and treatment choices of breast cancer. However, the breast MRI is intended as secondary screening measure to the yearly mammogram for those women who exhibit high risk factors.
"Breast MRI is not necessarily the primary screening option for all women, but has proven to be an effective method of diagnosing breast cancer earlier in high-risk patients," said Dr. Kendall. "There is a significant increase in the quality of life and the success rate of treatment options when cancer is detected at Stage I versus Stage III. If you think you may be at risk, discuss your screening options with your physician."
Dr. Kendell and his colleagues at Mountain Medical perform breast MRI screening with the most advanced technology available at imaging centers located in private clinics and hospitals along the Wasatch Front.
Look at the facts, know your history and don't be afraid to discuss options with your physician. Early detection of breast cancer is the key to unlock your recovery.