Breast Cancer Awareness and Prevention
Awareness and prevention are two effective tools in the fight against breast cancer.
People can help reduce the risk of developing breast cancer by making certain lifestyle changes. In addition, it’s important to detect breast cancer early through screening methods. Screening helps identify breast cancer before there are symptoms or at a very early stage, when the chances for successful treatment are highest.
Reducing the Risk of Breast Cancer
It’s natural to be concerned about breast cancer and to take steps toward prevention by lowering risk. Some risk factors, such as family history, can't be changed. However, some lifestyle changes might help reduce risk. These include:
- Limiting alcohol
- Not smoking
- Controlling your weight
- Getting physical activity
- Limiting dose and duration of hormone therapy
Talk to a doctor about risks for breast cancer or make an appointment with our cancer genetics experts if you have a family history of the disease. Board-certified genetic counselors are trained to identify high-risk families and help them understand their risk of developing cancer as well as their options for prevention, early detection, and treatment.
Screening for Breast Cancer
Getting screened for breast cancer is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Breast cancer screening methods include a clinical breast examination, mammography, and other imaging techniques.
UT Southwestern’s Center for Breast Care at Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center recommends a clinical breast exam starting at age 20 along with an annual mammogram starting at age 40 for women at average risk for breast cancer. Women at higher risk should talk to their doctors about a more frequent screening schedule and additional testing.
Our Center is uniquely equipped to screen high-risk patients using enhanced surveillance methods. If you are at high risk or need to determine your risk, our Cancer Genetics Program is one of the best in the nation and can answer all of your hereditary breast cancer questions.
Clinical Breast Exam
A clinical breast exam is a physical examination of the breast performed by a health care professional to check for lumps or other changes. It’s recommended with routine gynecology exams at one- to three-year intervals in women ages 20 to 39. These exams can be performed by an Ob/Gyn or primary care doctor, a nurse practitioner, or a physician assistant.
Checking one’s own breasts for lumps or other unusual changes is called a breast self-exam. This type of exam cannot replace regular clinical breast exams or mammograms. In clinical trials, breast self-exams alone were not found to help reduce the number of deaths from breast cancer.
Mammograms use X-rays to create an image of the breast tissue that can reveal abnormalities long before you or your doctor can feel them.
All mammograms performed at UT Southwestern are digital and are reviewed by a specialized radiologist dedicated to breast imaging.
With digital mammograms, the images are recorded directly into a computer, allowing our radiologists to view them on a screen so that specific areas can be enlarged or highlighted. If there is a suspicious area, we can easily take a closer look.
To ensure the highest possible level of accuracy, all breast cancer screening mammograms are read independently by two or more UT Southwestern breast imaging radiologists. Our radiologists are accredited by the American College of Radiology.
Tomosynthesis, or what is more commonly known as 3-D mammography, is also available at UT Southwestern. It is an extension of a digital mammogram in which X-ray machines are used to take pictures of thin slices of the breast from different angles. We use computer software to reconstruct the image, making it three-dimensional and allowing doctors to see dense areas more clearly. It’s an enhanced screening option for women with dense breast tissue or those at higher risk for breast cancer.
Learn more about what to expect before, during, and after a mammogram.
Other Imaging Techniques
While mammograms are currently the most useful tests for screening for and detecting breast cancer early, other imaging tests might be helpful in some cases. These other tests are particularly helpful for women who are at higher risk for breast cancer, have had breast cancer before, or have dense breast tissue.
The other imaging tests include:
- Breast MRI
- Breast ultrasound, also known as sonography
UT Southwestern offers both types of mammograms, and our doctors work with patients to determine if they need screening with the additional techniques.
In addition, we routinely perform biopsies for evaluation of lesions at our our imaging units.
Mobile Mammography Unit
We offer a mobile mammography program that brings mammograms to workplaces, churches, community outreach events, and other locations via our customized 18-wheeler. The mobile unit is equipped with the same state-of-the-art digital technology we offer at the Center for Breast Care.
For more information or to schedule our mobile mammography unit to come to your location or event, please call 214-645-2560.