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Detecting Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women in the United States. Figures from the American Cancer Society show more than 35 percent of woman over 40 are not getting screened for the disease. If you're afraid to get tested, don't be.

Brenda Rosier has had mammograms before. Her thoughts? "Cold. Hard. Painful," she says.

A mammogram is the most common procedure used by doctors to find breast cancer, but it's not the only way. One new option is a procedure known as ductal lavage.

"If you got used to it, [it is] just like having your annual pap smear," says patient Mary Parham.

Ductal lavage doesn't require any injection or needles. Patients say it only causes mild discomfort. Breast cancer starts in the cells that line the breast or milk duct. With a catheter, doctors collect and test these potentially dangerous cells, locating the disease before a lump develops.

Oncologist Richard Elledge, M.D., of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, says, "Up to now, it's been not possible to sample the cells that cause breast cancer in the breast, because they haven't been accessible."

Another screening option is a breast MRI.

Radiologist Claudia Berman, M.D., of H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla., says, "If there's an abnormality found, we're more likely to be able to assure that it's a cancer and the woman is less likely to have a biopsy that's unnecessary."

The MRI provides clearer images of dense breast tissue, diagnoses implant rupture and helps determine how far the cancer has spread.

Sue Cannavo took the test. She says, "It did find an abnormality but it was a benign cyst. Very relieved about that."

That's good news no matter which test you take.

Recent studies show breast screenings have reduced mastectomy rates. Doctors say mammography is still the best tool for detection. It's inexpensive and widely available. Ask your doctor about screening options.

If you would like more information, please see the American Cancer Society website.

Categories: Health & Wellness, Women's Health,

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