Wednesday, 10 October 2018 18:47

#ShirtsOff for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Written by Dr. Daliah Wachs
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Breast cancer affects thousands of men and women each year and screening is unfortunately overlooked all too often.

Many women find mammograms painful and embarrassing hence hesitate when urged to get screened.

And some men may not realize they too have breast tissue and are at risk for breast cancer.



October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and #ShirtsOff reminds us to examine ourselves, get screened, and look for changes in our breasts.

Signs of breast cancer include

  • A lump inside the breast or under the arm
  • Breast pain
  • Change in breast shape
  • Dimpling
  • Nipple discharge
  • Nipple bleeding
  • Rash
  • Sore on the breast
  • Discoloration
  • Change in skin texture

How common is breast cancer?


1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lifetime. According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 266,120 cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the US with 63,960 cases of non-invasive breast cancer, a rise from last year.

40,920 women and 480 men are expected to die this year of breast cancer.


What are the risk factors for breast cancer?


Risk factors for breast cancer include:

  • Age greater than 50
  • Family History
  • BRAC1 and BRAC2 genetic mutations
  • Alcohol use
  • Never been pregnant or becoming pregnant for the first time over 35 years old
  • Early menarche at age 11 or younger
  • Obesity, especially after menopause
  • Dense breasts
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Use of oral contraceptives
  • Previous “precancerous” tumors such as atypical hyperplasia
  • DES exposure
  • Previous radiation therapy

How is breast cancer staged?


Breast cancer is staged based on size of the tumor, if lymph nodes are affected and whether the cancer has spread to distant areas of the body.  Prognosis varies greatly on the stage.





Is family history a huge factor?


85% of breast cancer cases occur in women with NO family history.


Screening of breast cancer


Mammograms are the first line screening tool for breast cancer and are currently recommended biennial for women aged 50-74.  However for those at higher risk, mammogram screening should start earlier, with possible follow-up ultrasound, and be performed more regularly.


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3-D Mammograms use some of the most sensitive technology in screening.

Dr. William Boren, owner of West Valley Imaging in Las Vegas, Nevada, states “3-D Mammograms reportedly find up to 40% more cancers, allowing a topographic view of the tissue.”

Dr. Boren also recommends to “not leave big gaps between screening.  If you start screening at age 40, then continue yearly screens.”


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Daliah Wachs is a guest contributor to GCN news, her views and opinions, medical or otherwise, if expressed, are her own. Doctor Wachs is an MD,  FAAFP and a Board Certified Family Physician.  The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00 pm (all central times) at GCN.