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Your Guide to Breast Health

Just being a woman puts you at risk for breast cancer.

One in eight women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society. But, there is encouraging news. Tremendous medical advances in the fight against breast cancer offer hope for more women than ever before. When discovered in its early stages, breast cancer is nearly 100 percent curable. In fact, more and more women beat the disease every day. The key is early detection.

Advocate Christ Medical Center encourages you to take charge of your breast health with a three-step program recommended by the American Cancer Society.

Step 1:

Physician Breast Exam
A physician exam is recommended every year for women 40 years of age and older and every three years for women age 20 to 39. Women with a personal or family history of breast cancer are advised to get more frequent physician exams.

Step 2:

Breast Self-Exam (BSE)
Your physician is trained to feel for any unusual lumps and can show you how to perform your breast self-exam correctly. This simple test takes only five minutes every month. It helps you become familiar with the normal contours of your breasts, so you are much more likely to detect a change. It's recommended for every woman 20 years of age and older.

Step 3:

A mammogram can detect a tumor as tiny as a pinhead - which is up to two years before you or your physician can feel it. The American Cancer Society recommends that every woman has a yearly mammogram beginning at age 40 - sometimes earlier if there's a family history of breast cancer. Ask your doctor. This baseline mammogram is used to compare future mammograms to help identify any changes in breast tissue.

The mammography screening exam itself is quick and simple. Two low-dose x-rays are taken of each breast in a special unit that gently flattens the breast tissue. Some pressure is applied to produce a good image.

Although some women report discomfort, it lasts only a few seconds. If your breasts are tender around the time of menstruation, you may want to schedule your exam for seven to ten days after your period.

Your physician has results within a week, and you will receive a written report from the hospital in a month.

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