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Health Watch

October is International Breast Cancer Awareness Month

The month of October is recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness Month in several countries around the world, including in the United States. According to the World Health Organization, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, both in developed and developing countries.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

History of Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast Cancer Awareness Month has been observed since 1985. In 1991 the Susan G. Komen Foundation handed out pink ribbons to participants of its New York City race for breast cancer survivors, and The Breast Cancer Research Foundation was founded in 1993 with the pink ribbon as its symbol.

Every year events are held to raise money for breast cancer research and awareness of breast cancer. In St. Louis, you can join the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk which starts at 9 a.m. on Saturday, October 27, in Forest Park.

According to the WHO, there are about 1.38 million new cases and 458,000 deaths from breast cancer worldwide each year. The majority of those deaths, at 269,000, occur in low- and middle-income countries, where most women with breast cancer are diagnosed in late stages, mostly because of a lack of awareness about early detection and barriers to health services.

Importance of Early Detection

Breast Cancer Awareness Month helps to increase awareness of breast cancer and highlights the importance of breast cancer screenings, or mammograms. Mammograms are recommended for women who show no symptoms of breast cancer. Since the causes of breast cancer are not known at this time, early detection is the best defense against it. The earlier breast cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat successfully.

Mammograms are currently the most effective method known for early detection of breast cancer. Mammograms have been used for more than 50 years to screen for breast cancer. Watson Imaging Center has next-generation early breast cancer detection thanks to True Breast Tomosynthesis, or 3D mammography. The American Cancer Society recommendations for screening tests, or mammograms, for women with an average risk for breast cancer are:

  • Women between 40 and 44 have the option to start screening with a mammogram every year.
  • Women 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
  • Women 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every other year, or they can choose to continue annual mammograms. A woman should continue to get an annual mammogram as long as she is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.

Every woman should decide with her doctor when to begin screening mammograms, the frequency of them and how long to continue getting them. Risk of breast cancer is determined through risk assessment tools that are based mainly on family history. Several other factors determine a woman’s lifetime breast cancer risk. A woman with an average risk of breast cancer has a less than 15% lifetime risk of breast cancer.

Advances in Mammography Technology

Mammograms can be performed in two ways: through 2D mammography and through 3D mammography. Up until now, mammograms have come in the form of digital 2D mammography. These types of mammograms are less effective in women who have decreasing sensitivity in dense breasts or from overlapping breast tissue, resulting in less-clear images and uncertainty for doctors, and sometimes a missed diagnosis. Up to 30% of cancers go undetected by standard mammography, and 52-76% of cancers are missed in dense breast tissue. When every year counts, earlier detection makes all the difference and 3D mammography can make a big difference.

True Breast Tomosynthesis

True Breast Tomosynthesis works in much the same way as 2D mammography: the breast is compressed under a paddle while images are taken of the breast.  There are several differentiators in 3D mammography, however. True Breast Tomosynthesis takes images from many angles of each breast, which is not available in 2D mammography. Pictures are taken in a 50-degree arc around the breast for a more complete image. Twenty-five pictures are taken of each breast, and then those images are sent to a computer and assembled into a 3D picture of the breast. That 3D picture results in a clearer image for doctors to read, resulting in fewer missed breast cancer diagnoses.

Watson Imaging Center performs 3D mammograms because of their greater accuracy over 2D mammography. Schedule your next mammogram at our St. Louis, Missouri location and get a True Breast Tomosynthesis mammogram and the greater peace of mind that comes with a 3D mammogram.

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