Mary Bouldin, a nurse educator and American College of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer at Fox Army Health Center, doesn’t want women to forget to get screened for breast cancer, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I remember doing a presentation a couple of years ago on breast cancer awareness,” Bouldin said. “And I asked the question, how many of you have been impacted by breast cancer in one way or another. Hands went up all around the room.”
Bouldin said approximately 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in their lifetime and most of the invasive breast cancers are found in women over the age of 55. Invasive means that abnormal cells have grown beyond the glands or ducts where they started and into the surrounding breast tissue. Most breast cancers are invasive. About 80% of the women who are diagnosed with breast cancer don’t have the cancer in their family history.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that 395,900 breast cancer deaths were averted in US women from 1989 to 2017, because of earlier detection capabilities and treatment improvements. Digital 2D mammography, low-dose x-ray imaging of breast tissue, and digital breast tomosynthesis (3D mammography) have made it possible to view cancer in earlier stages, therefore allowing women and their cancer care teams more options for less extensive surgery and/or chemotherapy choices for treatment. Bouldin said in order to treat a cancer we have to know that it is there and screening mammograms are the way to do this.
Bouldin said the American Cancer Society recommends that women of average risk start yearly mammograms at age 40. Then at 45 she said the ACS recommends annual screenings, but then at 55 that recommendation drops to every other year.
The ACS also said there wasn’t a need to do at-home breast exams each month, but Bouldin pointed out that women need to know their body.
“A person who’s checking monthly has a better idea of what’s going on than somebody who is doing it indeterminately,” she said. “So it’s a good idea to learn what your normal is.”
Bouldin said the important thing is to be prepared, and that prevention and early detection are part of that preparation.
“Ignorance is not bliss,” she said. “It just means we find things late.”
She added that most people spend more time planning a vacation than they do taking care of their personal health. Set your calendar reminder for your breast cancer screening mammogram today.