Ask the Expert: Cancer control month

Ask the Expert: Cancer control month

(KUTV) April is Cancer Control month and around Mother’s Day there are breast cancer awareness events such as “Race for the Cure” that remind women to be screened for breast cancer by getting a mammogram.

One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Excluding skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed among US women, accounting for nearly one in three cancers. Mammography has helped reduce deaths due to breast cancer by 40% in the U.S. since 1990, but Utah currently ranks 7th lowest in the nation for our insured women getting screened.

The American College of Radiology and the Society for Breast Imaging recommend that women begin getting mammograms at age 40, but women with a history of breast cancer in the family may benefit from earlier screening. The American Cancer Society recommends that women consult with their doctors about whether to begin annual screening at age 40, but that they should start no later than age 45.

What happens if you get a mammogram and it comes back as abnormal?

Don’t panic! According to the American Cancer Society, less than 10 percent of women called back for more tests after a screening mammogram are found to have breast cancer. (

Waiting for appointments and the results of tests can be frightening. Many women have strong emotions including disbelief, anxiety, fear, anger, and sadness. It’s normal to have these feelings.

It’s important to complete further testing to determine if the abnormality is non-cancerous or cancerous.

If your results are abnormal, a radiologist will likely recommend further imaging such as:

? Diagnostic mammogram

? Breast ultrasound or

? Breast MRI

You will likely also need a biopsy, which means getting a sample of tissue from the abnormal area. The tissue sample gets sent to a pathologist who makes a diagnosis.

If it’s cancer, you’ll usually be referred to a general surgeon, who will discuss treatment options, which include surgery to remove the tumor, radiation, chemotherapy, and/or hormone therapy. Depending on the individual case, one or more of these options is recommended. Depending on the surgery recommended, reconstructive options can also be discussed with a plastic surgeon.

Many general surgeons do breast cancer surgery to remove cancerous tissue, and some specialize in it. Most patients get surgery first to remove the cancerous mass and check for spread to the lymph nodes.

Complete breast cancer care is best provided by a team of specialists at Intermountain Healthcare

A general surgeon will talk over your case with a multi-disciplinary breast cancer tumor board to determine the order and type of treatment recommended. The board includes surgeons, pathologists, oncologists, and radiation oncologists, breast care coordinators, genetic counselors and lymphedema specialists.

There are research-based guidelines for breast care, but every patient is different and there are subtle differences discussed as well as eligibility to participate in clinical research trials.

If you are over 40 and haven’t had a mammogram, the number you can call to schedule a mammogram at any Intermountain hospital in the Salt Lake area is 801-507-7840.