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Breast Health & Diagnosis
The Seattle Breast Center at Northwest Hospital recommends a three-step breast health plan to include:
Mammography — Annual screening mammograms starting at age 40. Women who have a strong family history of breast cancer should start screening 10 years before the age that the primary relative (mother or sister) was diagnosed.
A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray of the breasts. It is the single best method for early detection of breast cancer while the disease is at its most curable stage. A mammogram takes just a few minutes and can detect most breast cancers early, before they can be discovered through palpation (touch). Seattle Breast Center is one of the few all-digital facilities in Washington State, providing digital mammograms to all patients.
How mammograms are performed: Two images are taken of each breast from different angles. In order to get the most detailed image, while also diminishing the amount of direct x-ray exposure, the breast tissue must be compressed. This is accomplished by compressing each breast between two plastic plates for a few seconds. For most women, this is not an uncomfortable process. Some mild discomfort may be experienced when a woman's breasts are sensitive. This can be minimized by scheduling the mammogram just after the menstrual period ends, and by avoiding caffeinated foods and beverages one to two weeks prior to the examination.
How mammograms are interpreted: In order to maximize our ability to detect breast cancer, all screening mammograms are read individually by a specialized breast radiologist, aided by a state-of-the-art Computer-Assisted Detection system. Studies show that specialized breast radiologists are much more likely than general radiologists to detect a cancer early when there is the best chance for a cure, while minimizing
Clinical Examination — Annual exams starting at age 20.
Clinical breast examination should be part of an annual well woman exam for every adult woman. During the exam the health care provider must look at the breasts to determine whether there is any change in size or shape and any dimpling or discoloration of the skin. The provider will also palpate the breasts, chest and armpits to search for any lumps.
Breast Self Exam — Monthly self exams starting at age 20.
A monthly breast self exam (BSE) is a tool women of all ages should use to detect breast cancer early. This frequency will help you become familiar with the usual appearance and feel of your breasts, making it easier to notice any changes in the breast from one month to the next. For women who menstruate, the optimal time of the month to do a BSE is two to three days after your menstrual period ends. If you no longer menstruate, pick a day such as the first day of the month or other regularly occurring event, such as the date your phone bill is due, to help remind yourself that it is time to do your BSE.
How To Do A Breast Self Exam
Visit the American Cancer Society’s website, for detailed instructions on performing a self breast exam.