Develop a Personalized Breast Cancer Early Detection Plan
Morris Hospital breast health nurse navigator Terri Jacob says that today, the five-year survival rate for women who were diagnosed with breast cancer in its earliest stages is 99 percent.
“That’s pretty incredible,” she says.
While better treatments are one reason survival rates are so much better, Jacob explains, the biggest reason is that cancers are being detected at earlier stages, making treatment much more effective.
Screenings used to detect breast cancer have also become more personalized. The directives are no longer “one size fits all.”
That’s why Morris Hospital follows the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ (ACOG) guidelines for “shared decision making.” Women are advised to work hand-in-hand with their physicians to choose the screening options that are best for each woman’s particular situation.
“There is so much information out there about genetics and risk factors,” Jacob says. “There are certain risk factors that we cannot change, like growing older, being a woman, or having a family history of cancer. There are also risk factors that we can control, such as consumption of alcohol, smoking, weight and diet. Having a good patient-doctor relationship gives patients the opportunity to discuss their risks and the screenings.”
For instance, certain risk factors increase a woman’s chance for breast cancer, but that does not mean that those with no risk factors will avoid getting cancer. According to ACOG, most women who are diagnosed with breast cancer do not have identifiable risk factors.
Jacob says women should discuss the three-tiered approach to early detection – breast self-examination, clinical breast examinations, and mammography – with their primary care provider or OB/GYN.
“We want women to know that they should have these discussions and determine what’s right for them,” she says. “It’s important to discuss what plan works best for you.”
Self-exams are still very important, according to Jacob.
“Know your body and what’s normal for you,” she says, “and be sure to report any changes to your primary healthcare provider or OB/GYN.”
Women at average risk for breast cancer should have clinical breast exams every one to three years at ages 25-39, and annual exams every year after that.
Annual mammograms are recommended beginning at age 40 for women at average risk without symptoms.
“Mammography helps us detect breast cancer at its earliest stages and gives our patients the best options for treatment and the best chance of living a longer and healthier life,” Jacob says.
Morris Hospital offers mammography services at four locations: in Morris at the hospital main campus; in Channahon at the Morris Hospital Ridge Road Campus; in Ottawa at the Morris Hospital Obstetrics & Gynecology Specialists office; and in Yorkville at the Morris Hospital Yorkville Campus.
For more information, visit www.morrishospital.org/mammography.