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When to Get a Mammogram

Knowing when to get a mammogram is vital

Considering our mortality is an exercise that most of us would prefer to avoid. As a result, undergoing regular, preventative care can be a stressful practice, but it is also necessary if we want to enjoy more time on this earth. Mammograms are no exception. Knowing when to get a mammogram is essential to your health.

In a lot of cases, people think of mammograms as something reserved for older women. Historically this was the case. Women would often wait until they were in their 50s or 60s to get their first mammogram, but the perceived increase in breast cancer cases in younger women is changing that perception.

At Breast Institute Houston, breast cancer prevention is our highest priority.

Shifting the Bar

A recent report out of Yale states that about 11% of breast cancer patients are under the age of 45. It may not seem like a lot, but it means that younger women should certainly be paying attention to their breast health before entering menopause. According to the same report, the Center for Disease Control estimates that 26,393 women under 45 will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.

In response to growing awareness of this issue, many health care providers suggest that all women begin receiving annual mammograms at the age of 45. The American Cancer Association makes this recommendation with the caveat that women with genetic risk factors should be given the option to undergo annual mammograms starting at the age of 40.

Prior to age 40, women are still considered to be in a low-risk category. However, you should undoubtedly continue regular breast examinations. It may seem like a troublesome exercise, but women are being diagnosed with breast cancer as early as their twenties. Performing regular self-examinations allows you to create a baseline.

To recognize an abnormality in its earliest stages, you have to have a sense of their normal topography. By performing regular self-exams, the somewhat lumpy tissue that makes up the lactation system of the breast will become more recognizable, allowing you to discern when something doesn’t feel quite right.

Performing a Self-Examination

The National Breast Cancer Foundation suggests that all women should perform a self-examination once per month, as 40% of all breast cancer cases are initially discovered by the patient.

There are three distinct steps to a complete self-examination.

Visual Exam

In some cases, lumps caused by breast cancer are visible. During your self-examination, you should stand in front of a mirror. First, check for any inconsistencies in the curvature of your breasts. Make sure to check up to the collar-bone, underneath the breast, underneath the armpit, and the breast tissue that continues to wrap around to your back.

Standing Upright

To check for lumps by touch, take the three fingers of your dominant hand and use their flattened pads to scan your breast. To ensure a full exam, start on one side and press lightly onto the skin as you run your fingers in a vertical path down. Continue to move across the breast and make a vertical pass with your fingers each time.

This approach may feel weird to you, given the shape of breasts. However, using the vertical scanning method allows a level of consistency that will improve your ability to recognize something out of the ordinary. Also, it prevents the possibility of missing part of your breast.

As with the visual test, make sure you start at the collar-bone and continue your vertical sweep to the very bottom of the breast. You also want to make sure you check the tissue under your armpit and around to your back where your bra-strap would normally be located.

Laying Down

The last part of your self-examination makes it a little easier, especially if you have larger breasts. By laying down, you allow the bulk of your breast tissue to naturally flatten a bit. For comfort, place a pillow under the shoulder of the breast you’re going to check and put the arm behind your head. Follow the same technique as when you were standing.

If You Find a Lump

If you feel something out of the ordinary, then you’ll want to make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor will likely perform a physical examination. They’ll follow up with scheduling when to get a mammogram if something feels out of the ordinary.

For your mammogram, the American Cancer Society suggests wearing a skirt or pants for your own comfort during the exam. Additionally, they warn that you should avoid wearing antiperspirant or deodorant, which can obscure your results.

During the exam, the technician will have to physically place your breasts to ensure a good image. You should inform the office when you make an appointment if you would prefer a female technician. It is important to us that you feel comfortable during the exam.

The process does require flattening your breasts to achieve the required images. Fortunately, this only lasts a few seconds per image, and your technician will do their best to ensure your comfort.

Preparing for News

Knowing when to get a mammogram is essential to early detection and treatment. If your mammogram reveals a potentially cancerous mass, then it is time to start planning for your future. At Breast Health Institute Houston, Dr. Miltenburg specializes in giving breast cancer patients the care and support they need. We provide a range of breast tumor treatment options. Contact our office for an initial consultation to get all of your questions answered and to start building the medical support network you may need in the coming months.

What to Expect After a Mastectomy

Life after a mastectomy

Whether your mastectomy is preventative or a response to a positive cancer diagnosis, the honest truth is that this surgery is incredibly hard on most women. Those of us who have watched our mothers, aunts, sisters, etc. undergo a mastectomy already have some idea of how physically and emotionally draining this particular surgery can be. However, a second-hand experience is ultimately removed from the actual experience.

In preparation for your procedure, Dr. Darlene M. Miltenburg at Breast Health Institute Houston will have already spoken to you about post-surgical care. What she may not have spoken to you about yet is the mental and emotional toll that this procedure often takes on women, so let us take a few minutes to discuss your physical and your mental health post-mastectomy.

The Physical Toll

This topic receives a lot of coverage, mostly because many patients appear to initially assume that their surgeon is overly cautious. Erika Archer Lewis attacks this concept in no uncertain terms. Her article, “5 Tips from my Mastectomy Experience,” describes the recovery period as a rollercoaster. She notes that at about three weeks after surgery, she was feeling well and decided to ignore her surgeon’s warning to take a full six weeks off. Hours later, her back and shoulders went into spasm, completely incapacitating her. It’s a lesson that she urges all other women to learn from.

Whether or not you start to feel better, it is imperative that you listen to your surgeon’s specific instructions. These may vary depending on the type of mastectomy you are receiving or the amount of tissue being removed, but their expertise should be respected if you want to give your body the best chance at healing.

Yes, this will generally mean that you will need to call in every favor you’ve amassed. You will need to rely on your partner, your family, and your friends for everything from child care to cleaning to meal preparation, and there is nothing wrong with that. At this moment in your life, the only thing you should be focusing on is healing.

The Mental Toll

Unfortunately, focusing on healing can be difficult after having a mastectomy. So much has changed. You are suddenly utterly reliant on other people. Your body is unrecognizable. In a sense, you’re experiencing grief. Grief over a part of your body that you assumed would always be there.

Sure, from the outside, it is easy to say, “they’re just breasts,” but, in reality, your self-image has been partially erased. You can’t even hug someone without pain. My own mother cried for months every time one of her young children tried to lay their heads on her chest. There was no tissue, nothing to cushion the weight of her child against her ribs.

Experiencing grief is normal. You have to give yourself the space to process your loss before you move on. Fortunately, there are things you can do to give yourself a boost and maintain a sense of normalcy after your surgery.

Communication

First, if you’re in a romantic relationship, then you need to discuss boundaries with your partner post-surgery. Given that you will be healing for up to two months, it is easy to lose that easy, sexual intimacy you had before, especially if you’re feeling self-conscious. Don’t be afraid to talk to your partner about how you’re feeling. Without open communication, you may both end up feeling unwanted, leading to a serious rift in your relationship.

Restock

Second, once your recovery period is over, go shopping. Live Better with Cancer has a great blog devoted to what you should wear during your recovery period. But afterwards, it is going to be essential to pick out a few items that you feel attractive in. Picking out delicate lingerie is a great start. Aim for items that will cover your scars and allow you to feel beautiful again. Silky camisoles usually do the trick. It sounds vain, but it is vital to rebuild your self-image after surgery.

Help is Available

Positive sexuality and self-image are important to a lot of people. Still, the ultimate goal after a mastectomy is to make sure that your relationships stay healthy and you don’t lose any feeling of self-worth. If you’re struggling to cope or are experiencing feelings of worthlessness, then please contact your surgeon. Their offices will be able to connect you with local support groups and therapists.

If you begin to experience suicide ideation, then please call the National Suicide Prevention Line. Although relatively few breast cancer patients commit suicide, they are 37% more likely to do so than the general population. Any symptoms of depression should be taken seriously, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.

How Long Does it Take to Treat Breast Cancer?

Pink breast cancer ribbon on alarm clock

There are many factors to consider when determining how long breast cancer takes to treat. Even your doctor will only be able to give estimates based on how far your cancer has spread through the breast tissue and where it has metastasized if it has metastasized at all.

Their estimates are based on decades of experience and medical research. However, you should still ask your doctor to give you two estimates, one that imagines everything going to plan and one that factors in common complications. Taking all factors into consideration, the Mayo Clinic suggests that the average treatment length for breast cancer can be divided into two categories: early-stage breast cancer and advanced breast cancer. When trying to figure out how long breast cancer takes to treat, it’s important to start here.

If you’re lucky and catch your condition early on, then your breast cancer treatment will generally last between three and six months. This assumes there is no further growth while you are undergoing treatment. In more advanced cases, you should typically expect a minimum of six months of treatment. How far it goes beyond that depends on how many surgeries you need and how far the cancer has spread.

Survival Happens Every Day

These rough estimates for how long breast cancer takes to treat can be helpful to plan your life around treatment. More importantly, they provide a light at the end of the tunnel for you to focus on. However, for your daily sanity, it may be better to break down your treatment into smaller parts. Take it from one day to the next. Remember, every day you make it, you’re already winning. These factors all affect how long breast cancer takes to treat.

Surgery

In some cases, where the tumor is still relatively small, your doctor may choose to administer a cycle of chemotherapy prior to surgery. This attempts to shrink the tumor. There are a number of reasons your doctor may suggest this practice. The Mayo Clinic states that it is sometimes used to establish how the tumor reacts to treatment in order to establish a clearer prognosis. In other cases, the pre-surgery chemotherapy may increase the odds of the tumor’s complete removal. All with minimal damage to the surrounding tissues and lymphatic system. However, this is limited to the earliest stages of breast cancer.

For mid-level to advanced cases, surgery almost always precedes other forms of treatment. Science-Based Medicine warns patients that this step may not always happen as quickly as they would expect, but that a delay of a few weeks makes no marked difference in their survival statistics. This time is ideal for your surgeon to schedule your surgery and for you to prepare for the coming challenge. BreastCancer.org warns patients to not panic or rush their initial surgery. It is perfectly fine to take that vacation you booked months ago or visit your family over the holidays unless your doctor says otherwise. They will tell you if surgery can’t wait.

Dr. Marlene Miltenburg of Breast Health Institute Houston estimates that recovery from surgery typically takes two weeks. As a result, the average patient takes between six and eight weeks to make the transition from diagnosis to post-surgical recovery if they are able to schedule surgery within the first month.

Chemotherapy

Although some early cases can be treated with radiation therapy, many breast cancer patients have to go through chemotherapy. Medical News Today’s professionally-reviewed article explains that your doctor’s approach to chemotherapy will vary based on your condition. Typically, they will sketch out a plan based on your prognosis. Keep in mind they will monitor progress with every course of chemotherapy you undergo.

A course of chemotherapy can range from one dose to several given over a set period of time. The dosage and frequency will vary based on the individual. Once you’ve completed a course, blood tests will ascertain your body’s response. Chemotherapy is far from pleasant, but each course is a definitive marker you can use to track your progress as you go.

Keeping Cancer in its Place

It’s frustrating when you don’t know exactly how long this nightmare will last, but every step you take has the opportunity to give you hope if you’re willing to treat it as progress. Whether your battle with cancer lasts for three months, six months, or a year, the most important thing is to create a support network you can rely on. Explain to family and friends what you really need from them rather than letting their fear control your life and find a doctor you can really trust.

Coping with Chemo: What to Expect and How to Handle it

Bald woman sitting on yoga mat happy

A breast cancer diagnosis is a life-changing experience. There’s no denying that simple fact. To do otherwise would ignore everything your body has meant to you. Imminent surgery is already a lot to handle. You will have to decide with your doctor how you want to approach it. You can maintain a level of control in regard to your decision of when or if to have reconstructive surgery; however, when it comes to chemotherapy, control can often seem out of reach. This can make coping with chemotherapy very difficult.

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Exercise and its Relationship to Breast Cancer

Even if you don’t have a family history of breast cancer, the possibility of developing of cancer is a commonsense concern for most people. If you’ve ever had a brush with cancer, even via a close friend or family member, then you have some idea of how abruptly a diagnosis can seem to throw your entire world upside down. As a result, we spend hours of our lives researching antioxidants and risk factors. However, there is one element you probably aren’t paying enough attention to: exercise.

Evidence and Exercise

Recent medical studies focusing on the relationship between breast cancer and exercise divide the correlation into three separate spheres: prevention, resiliency, and remission. One synthetic work published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal has become the gold standard for this discussion, as its combination of a multitude of studies positively identified exercise as a beneficial action in the prevention and handling of breast cancer.

Admittedly, this study was performed in 2006 and only 14 of the 136 studies identified met their inclusion criteria; fortunately, scientists continue to study the benefits of exercise in relation to breast cancer with positive results. A group of scientists associated with the Health Studies Center in Toronto, Canada recently released their own review of 67 published studies focusing on the effects of exercise on remission and mortality rates.

Their work demonstrated that regular exercise reduced breast cancer recurrence and mortality by 40%. The group does include one caveat, indicating that there is a possibility that weight maintenance is a contributing factor. Their study also revealed that patients in remission who gained more than 10% of their body weight saw increased risk of mortality.

How it Affects You

Percentages and decimal points can feel abstract when you’re trying to digest them without scientific training. The core point is that exercise helps your body to maintain a proper balance, which decreases your risk of developing cancer in the first place and helps keep you healthy through treatment and beyond.

Additionally, studies focused on quality of life during cancer treatment do show that exercise has a positive influence on patients. The study, performed by the University of Alberta’s Cross Cancer Institute found that chemotherapy patients who regularly exercised demonstrated higher levels of self-esteem and higher rates of chemotherapy completion. The scientists theorize that the two combined perpetuate patients’ perception of a higher quality of life, even when there is no measurable increase, as well as their chances of going into remission without recurrence.

What Can You Do?

Measuring proper exercise levels is a complicated business that revolves around your body type, eating habits, and time spent sedentary. Fortunately, the American Cancer Society has some basic guidelines to help you determine whether you’re exercising enough. The most current estimates suggest that all adults should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. You could potentially shove this into a couple of sessions, but their research suggests that it is better to pace yourself throughout the week, doing 20 to 30 minutes per day. Alternatively, if you prefer vigorous exercise, then 75 minutes per week is enough to meet their minimum requirements.

Your focus should be to maintain a healthy weight according to your body type, height, and age. There’s no need to turn into a fitness guru to protect your health. You just have to stay moderately active and take care of yourself, so throw on that sports bra, and go for a jog. Your efforts to prevent cancer can start today. If you’ve already been diagnosed, then remember that exercise is still an important part of your own treatment plan. Speak to your doctor at Breast Health Institute Houston about when it is safe to resume regular exercise after surgery and during chemotherapy.

Tackling the Psychological Effects of Breast Cancer

Daughter hugging cancer survivor mother helping with breast cancer depression

It is never easy to receive a cancer diagnosis. Everyone responds differently. Some treat it as a call to action, immediately scheduling and researching everything they possibly can. Others freeze for a moment, unable to fully process what just occurred. Regardless of the manner in which you respond to your cancer diagnosis, there is one consideration that is almost unique to breast cancer, the fact that your body will never look the same again. Breast cancer depression is very real, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t steps to counter it.

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What Should You Wear After a Mastectomy?

One half of pink bra for those wondering what to wear after a mastectomy

The prospect of a mastectomy is a daunting one. Whether you’re having breast reconstruction simultaneously or not, you’ve already devoted hours of your life to researching the surgical process and talking over your concerns with your breast cancer surgeon in Houston. You’ve made plans for childcare and have someone to drive you home from the hospital, but there is nothing that fully prepares a person for a mastectomy. How do you carry on life after a mastectomy?

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Taking Control with Breast Cancer Fighting Foods

Pink ribbon on dining table for breast cancer fighting foods

We all worry about what we’re putting in our bodies. However, the rush of daily life so often gets in the way. However, when it comes to cancer, patients must engage with these decisions in a whole new way. It’s no longer a question of a healthy weight or ultimate longevity in the far-off future. When you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, your diet becomes one of the few fighting tools you still have control over. Let’s take a look at some of the most effective breast cancer fighting foods.

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Is Lumpectomy Major Surgery?

Doctor consulting stressed woman and answering: is lumpectomy major surgery?

Lumpectomy describes a procedure which removes cancer from the breast. It should not be confused with mastectomy, the partial or complete removal of the breast. Is lumpectomy a major surgery? With a lumpectomy, only the tumor and a small rim of surrounding tissue are removed. This leaves the general shape of the breast and nipple intact.

Radiation is usually given after lumpectomy to get rid of any cancer too small to be seen on mammograms. The lumpectomy plus radiation Survival rate is the same as with a mastectomy.

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