Aware and cautious mean what?The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends mammograms for women between the ages of 50 and 74 every two years, with none after age 74. The nonprofit StopCancerFund recommends that non-high risk women begin regular mammograms at age 50. If there's a risk factor, like breast cancer in the family or some other predisposing condition, one mammogram around age 45 might be indicated. If that reads normal, waiting until age 50 for the next mammogram can help determine whether there's still a risk. Meanwhile, every woman from age 18 should perform regular monthly self-exams. There's no substitute. But I hope to persuade you to please not consider mammograms and self-exams your only diagnostic tools. There are several reasons why you should add other tests to these two standard procedures. One of them, ironically, is an unexpected outcome of having a generation of extremely sensitive new tools.
Two types of premalignant breast cancerUp to 30 percent of all breast cancer diagnoses are for “premalignant conditions”. That means the condition isn't a threat now, but may or may not become one. Today's new technology can identify several common premalignant conditions, two of which are ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), and lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS). Today's preferred treatments take into account that:
- The chance of nonmalignant DCIS becoming malignant is about 20 percent
- The chance of nonmalignant LCIS becoming cancerous is zero
- Biopsies can be painful, hit-or-miss procedures
- Surgery comes with infection risks and can spread cancer cells elsewhere in the body
- Radiation can cause cancer
- Chemo kills both helpful and harmful cells