COLORADO SPRINGS — Before we kick off our November Your Healthy Family stories, we have one last breast cancer awareness story as a segue from Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October to Men’s Health Awareness Month in November.
One roadblock to detecting breast cancer early in younger women is that if they notice a lump in their 30s they might think they are too young for it to be breast cancer, particularly if they are pregnant or breastfeeding and clogged milk ducts present as a lump.
Dr. Jason Allen, a radiologist and Medical Director for Breast Imaging for UCHealth in Colorado Springs says even if you think you're too young to have a lump be breast cancer, have it checked out. “We have seen a number of young patients - in their early 30s or younger recently who were not pregnant. Regardless of your pregnancy status, regardless of your age, if you feel something new in the breast or something doesn't seem quite right with the breast, it's always a good idea to get checked.”
Dr. Allen says one trend he is seeing is some women turning to a thermogram as a breast cancer screening option, because of concerns about the amount of radiation from a mammogram. “The Food and Drug Administration, (FDA) has issued a warning against thermography, (as a breast cancer screening tool) that relies on the detection of infrared energy from the breast. The basic principle (of thermography) is if you have breast cancer it's going to form more blood vessels and it's going to cause a focal area of increased heat in the breast. While breast cancer can be detected on a thermogram - typically it is detected at a much later stage, and it (thermography) cannot detect small cancers like the ones we see on mammography.”
As for the radiation dose, Dr. Allen says, “The radiation dose for a mammogram is extremely low. You're talking about the equivalent of maybe six weeks of normal background (radiation) just living at this altitude. That is the equivalent to the amount of radiation that your breast would get during a mammogram - so it's extremely low.”
And finally, Dr. Allen wants to remind all women that anytime you notice anything suspicious going on with your breasts, “Go see your primary care doctor and most commonly they are going to refer you on to see one of us in breast imaging to further evaluate it with either a mammogram, an ultrasound or both and sometimes we may even move onto an MRI. But certainly, anytime you detect anything that's out of the ordinary, you should always have it evaluated.”
If you have questions, make sure to follow up with your primary care doctor.
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