Breast cancer screening: the goal is early detection

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(Daniel Richardson/ Washington Daily News) — To screen for breast cancer or not?

When you consider that 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime, the answer to this question should be “yes.” The more difficult question to answer is, “What is optimal breast cancer screening?”

Before discussing specific breast cancer screening strategies, it is essential to review some important facts about breast cancer. First, breast cancer is not preventable, although some risk reduction strategies may be offered to individuals who are at high-risk for breast cancer.

Second, the two most significant risk factors for breast cancer include being female and increasing age. Women in the U.S. have an average lifetime risk of 12% for being diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast cancer can occur in males, but it represents only 1% of all breast cancer diagnoses in this country each year.

Third, although having a strong family history of breast cancer (and other related cancers such as colorectal, ovarian, pancreatic and prostate) can potentially make you more genetically susceptible to developing breast cancer, it is absolutely essential to understand that having a family history negative for breast and breast-related cancers does not mean that your risk for breast cancer is minimal. Ninety percent of all breast cancers are diagnosed in women with negative family histories. (…)

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