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Understanding the Risk Factors of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer occurs mostly in women, but men are also at risk. Most breast cancers start in the cells that line the ducts and the lobules and are called ductal or lobular cancers.  

A number of factors can increase your risk of getting ductal breast cancer or lobular breast cancer. Some of the major risk factors are:

  • Menstruation at an early age
  • Having a baby later in life or never having given birth at all
  • A personal history of benign (non-cancerous) breast disease
  • A mother or sister who has had breast cancer
  • Treatment to the breast or chest region using radiation therapy
  • Taking estrogen, progesterone or similar hormones
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Being Caucasian

If you are between the ages of 20 and 39 you should:

  • Have a breast exam at least every three years as part of your annual checkup.
  • Report any breast changes to your physician promptly. A monthly breast self-exam is recommended.

If you are 40 years of age or older you should:

  • Get an annual mammogram.
  • Make sure a breast exam is part of your yearly checkup.
  • Report any breast changes to your physician right away. Doing a monthly breast self-exam is recommended.

Most women diagnosed with breast cancer have NO IDENTIFIABLE RISK FACTORS, so routine screenings are essential to early detection.

If you are concerned about your risk for breast cancer, please discuss it with your primary care provider, or contact the Florida Hospital Breast Health Center at (407) 303-5955.   You may want to discuss earlier or more frequent screenings or interventions to reduce your risk for breast cancer.

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Screening Guidelines for Breast Cancer

Mammography is the “Gold Standard” of early detection, and is the only screening tool proven to reduce deaths from breast cancer.

The radiologists at Florida Hospital and Florida Radiology Imaging support the American College of Radiology’s recommendation for annual screening mammograms from age 40.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends women at average risk for breast cancer begin annual mammograms between 40 and 44 if they desire.  From age 45 to 54, an annual mammogram is recommended.  After 55, mammograms should be done every other year, unless the women prefers to continue screening on an annual basis, and should continue as long as her health is good and her life expectancy is 10 years or more. 

The ACS also finds that clinical breast exam and monthly breast self- exam are not proven to be valuable in early detection of breast cancer, and they are no longer recommended.  However, it is important that women be aware of the appearance and feel of their breasts so that any changes can be brought to the attention of their physicians.  Many breast cancers are detected by women who notice a new lump or a breast change.

Please discuss these guidelines with your primary care provider to develop a screening plan to fit your needs.

 

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Diagnosing Breast Cancer

Early detection is an essential part of successfully fighting breast cancer. At the Florida Hospital Cancer Institute (FHCI) we utilize a broad range of traditional and state-of-the-art technologies and procedures to accurately diagnose your cancer. 
If cancer is detected,our multi-disciplinary breast cancer team will identify the type and stage of your cancer and develop a treatment plan specific to your cancer and your individual needs.

 

 

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Mammogram

The FHCI’s imaging specialists rely on screening mammograms to detect changes in the breast before they can be felt. If a lump or cluster of calcifications is discovered, it will be tested further to see if it is cancerous or precancerous. Additionally, your doctor may recommend a diagnostic mammogram to learn about any unusual changes in the breast, such as a lump, thickening, nipple discharge or an unexpected change in breast size or shape. At the FHCI we offer digital mammography which offers superior imaging with less discomfort to the patient and less exposure to radiation. 

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Additional Testing

If a lump has been detected, your doctor may also order a breast ultrasound to examine its structure. Echoes created by bouncing ultrasound waves through the tissue produce a detailed image of the lump on a computer monitor.  If needed, your doctor may also request that you have an MRI. An MRI can offer more details about the location and size of the growth.   Each of these tests provide additional information that may be useful in diagnosing and treating your cancer effectively.

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Biopsy

If an abnormality shows up in these initial tests, your doctor may recommend that you have a biopsy. This involves the removal of a small piece of the lump so that this tissue can be checked for signs of cancer under a microscope by a pathologist. 

The most common method of obtaining samples from the breast is through a core biopsy where a special needle is inserted into the area of concern and several samples of the tissue are removed. Alternately, a fine need aspirate (FNA) may be performed. Using a small needle, only a portion of cells or fluid is removed. Both the core biopsy and the FNA can be done on an outpatient basis by a surgeon or a radiologist.  A clip or marker is usually placed at the site of the biopsy so that this site can be easily identified if necessary.

Two other biopsies can be performed and both take place in an operating room under anesthesia. An incisional biopsy removes a portion of a mass or lump while an excisional biopsy removes the entire mass.

Cells or tissue obtained in a biopsy are sent to a pathologist to be examined and tested. If the sample is benign (non-cancerous) then further tests may be required. If the biopsy results show a malignancy (cancer), treatment options will need to be explored.

An FHCI doctor will be happy to answer any questions you have about a biopsy or any of the other procedures mentioned here.

Used together or separately, these diagnostic tools help the breast cancer specialists at FHCI determine the presence of cancer, its type and staging so that a complete treatment plan can be developed and implemented; resulting in the best possible outcomes. Treatment may include a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy as well as new techniques made available through the institute’s clinical trials.

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Request an Appointment

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (407) 303-1700 or click here to fill out an online assistance form.

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