Getting into the habit of performing self exams and staying realistic about cancer are two important things women need to be mindful of in the months beyond Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Dr. Neelofur Ahmad, a radiation oncologist affiliated with Memorial Hermann Cancer Center-Northwest, says.
“It’s true that the vast majority of lumps found turn out to be benign,” Ahmad said. “That being said, the vast majority are detected through mammograms rather than feeling lumps. The majority of cancers found are small compared to how they were found years prior due to the adoption of earlier methods and timelines for screening.”
Ahmad said women should focus on working to individualize screening and care with their doctor, and points out that once a woman reaches the age of 40 there is no simple one-size-fits-all recommendation.
“At 40, women should likely be screened every other year,” Ahmad said. “At 50, there has been some controversy between different bodies in the medical field but most women should be screened every year.”
It’s also important to not only choose a high quality place to get screened but also to return to that same place every year if possible. This can be a challenge if someone moves or has changes to their insurance, however.
“Which places a woman can go to is often dictated by insurance companies, but going to the same place makes it less likely something will be missed,” Ahmad said.
Patients also tend to naturally be stressed and immediately worry about getting cancer when feeling something abnormal in their breasts. Ahmad stresses that the odds might actually be in their favor in terms of not having cancer.
“Of all the vast majority of things felt, only maybe 30 percent or so will require further intervention,” Ahmad said. “Once we do a little bit more testing, most will come back with a benign diagnosis.”
Another advantage in the medical field is the use of breast tomosynthesis, or three dimensional mammograms, which can be helpful in detecting tumors that might otherwise be too hard to see, Ahmad said. In choosing an establishment with efficient care, Ahmad also points to Memorial Hermann Northwest where each patient diagnosed receives a multidisciplinary team evaluation, where information is presented to radiation oncologists, physicians, surgeons and other doctors.
“They actually end up getting input from the physicians that all come to the conference to help ensure care is cooridnated,” Ahmad said. “In terms of care, it’s a one-stop-shop for our patients.”
For more information about Memorial Hermann Imaging & Breast Care Center Northwest, call 713-867-3336.